Written by Nicola Hazell on the 23rd of August, 2018
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Two weeks ago, in a beautiful room overlooking the sparkling lights of Sydney’s CBD, a new future became a reality.
As top investors and executives from across the country tucked into their entrees, on stage a chair began to talk and sing for the audience. Like a scene from Beauty and the Beast, a little magic was in the air.
Over the course of dinner, the room was introduced to a world:
Six months ago, this world didn’t exist. But through months of hard work – researching, testing, trialling and starting again – our second cohort of SheStarts founders have helped to create this new world.
This was their Graduation Showcase – the end of the accelerator but just the beginning of their journey as they launch their startups to the world.
“Standing up there felt very much like the culmination of true grit, persistence and emotion.” – Zoe Condliffe, Founder of She’s A Crowd
In less than six months, the founders in the 2018 SheStarts accelerator have validated their ideas, launched their technology, secured pilots with national and international partners and are preparing to raise funding to grow their teams, their tech and their potential.
These companies represent a diverse range of industries including EdTech, HealthTech, SmartCities and EnergyTech, with technology applications including IoT, big data analytics, machine learning and AI.
At the beginning of the program, their startups were little more than ideas, mere concepts for solving big problems. This rapid growth from idea to launch demonstrates the tenacity and grit of the founders in SheStarts. But it is also a reflection of the incredible support, insights and advice they have been able to tap into across our ecosystem.
“It was such an incredible feeling and experience to be in a room full of people listening to your pitch and who are also able to bring my business to life.” – Andrèz Coco, Founder of Knowlly
These founders have had the opportunity to learn from the experts and champions within our partners and supporters at ANZ, MYOB, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Google for Entrepreneurs and Herbert Smith Freehills, to the advisors across Australia and the US who have mentored and guided the founders through the endless challenges they have faced.
It truly does take a village to raise a startup, and this village has been a powerful global network for SheStarts, building on the amazing support provided to these founders at BlueChilli.
These founders have not just created new companies. They have become new leaders in our startup ecosystem.
“The program was a game changer for me in so many ways – not only did I grow my company in unexpected ways, I grew as a person as well. And that is what will stay with me forever.” – Danielle Owen Whitford, Founder of Pioneera
None of the women in our second cohort come from a classic tech or startup background. They are medical researchers, corporate executives, health professionals, community advocates, campaigners and designers.
At the start of the program, some were making the transition from long, steady careers, while others were taking a leap of faith only a few years in to their working life. Some were juggling family responsibilities. Others were juggling part-time work. All of them were trying to figure out what it means to be “a startup founder”.
Watching all the founders step into the spotlight at their graduation, it was an incredible opportunity to reflect on how much they have achieved, and what it means for each of them to be on this journey.
“After my pitch there was this brief moment of success and celebration and then a realisation that it’s time to really dig my heels in so I can have the impact and continue to build the business that I can be proud of.” – Laura Simmons, Founder of Theratrak
As individuals, they have the potential to change the world. But together, they already have.
The stories of these founders are redefining the narrative of startup land, revealing a new kind of leader who is bucking the stereotypes, rejecting the traditional, male-dominated startup culture and building businesses we can all believe in.
“SheStarts empowered me with the building blocks to believe I belong in the tech ecosystem – the Graduation Showcase gave me the opportunity to not just fit in, but to shine.” Dr Annie McAuley, Founder of TalkiPlay
This shift has ripple effects right across our startup economy; where investors, executives and ecosystem leaders are getting behind not just new ideas, but also a new approach. This is a new way of working where culture and values are part of the story from day one, and the principles of inclusion and equality are embedded in our policies and practices – recognised as central pillars in our collective success.
We still have a long way to go in driving equality in tech and entrepreneurship. But when I see the confidence and determination of the women who have just graduated from this year’s accelerator program, coupled with the enthusiasm of an excited ecosystem ready to get behind them, I know that real progress is being made.
I can’t wait to watch these founders step into the next phase of their startup journey, and to welcome a new cohort of entrepreneurs ready to follow in their footsteps…
Applications for the third cohort of SheStarts will open later this year. Keep up to date by joining our mailing list and follow all the news on our social channels here on Facebook and Twitter.