On International Women’s Day this year, the team at BlueChilli held a little breakfast with our friends from LMBDW, and announced a simple plan to launch a new accelerator program just for women.
The champagne glasses clinked, the emails started flying and the corresponding blog by our GM Innovation Colette Grgic seemed to light a fire under the women of Australia.
Almost 500 expressions of interest have been received since that day… and the interest just keeps coming. Women from right across Australia have told us, you have the ideas, the passion and the talent – you just need the runway to take off.
So for the past six months we’ve been building that runway, working with experts and supporters from across the startup ecosystem and throughout corporate Australia. We’ve been determined to make it the best runway possible. And today, it is our enormous pleasure to announce, the runway is ready… applications for SheStarts are now OPEN.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be undertaking a national talent search, to find, fund and accelerate ten new female-led startups and champion their stories to the world. At the end of the application period, 20 women will be invited to a rapid validation bootcamp, with the opportunity to pitch for one of ten spots in the SheStarts program.
Those founders selected to take part in SheStarts will each receive $100k in pre-seed capital to take their business from idea to launch. They’ll secure a spot in the SheStarts accelerator, where they will be guided by leading advisors and mentors as they learn how to rapidly build a successful tech company and become a great CEO. They’ll have access to our team of developers, designers and product managers, who help non-technical founders build great tech products. They’ll have the chance to partner with some of Australia’s leading organisations including ANZ, MYOB, Sunsuper and UTS, to pilot and test their products and launch their businesses with ready-made distribution channels. And at the end of the accelerator program, the women will travel to Silicon Valley to learn about the US investment market, build relationships and expand opportunities for their business to grow.
For the ten women who take part in this program, there is no doubt SheStarts will be life changing.
But the bigger question is, can ten women be a catalyst for driving gender equality across the entire startup economy? Can they move the needle in a sector where women currently make up between 14 per cent and 24 per cent of startup founders and less than 4 per cent of those attracting venture capital?
The answer is, realistically, no. While ten women can absolutely inspire and create momentum for change, to truly change the face of the startup space requires a massive shift in the national dialogue and a huge collective effort.
But in true startup style, we’re determined to hack this problem. That’s why we’re wrapping around SheStarts with a national multi-media campaign aimed at championing women in tech and entrepreneurship and tackling the persistent gender gap that holds so many women back.
Working in collaboration with other leading programs and support groups for female entrepreneurs and women in tech, SheStarts will bring together experienced business women and community champions to elevate the stories of women in leadership and entrepreneurship.
An 8-month documentary web-series kicking off in January, will go behind the curtains of startup land and provide unique insight into the female founder’s journey, following the SheStarts founders from selection and initial bootcamp, through to the high stakes pitch event and into the SheStarts accelerator as they build and grow their businesses. The series will show the realities of the challenges female entrepreneurs face, touching on major issues such as gendered expectations for caring responsibilities, unconscious bias, conscious bias and the gender gap in financial security and investment. We’ll follow the women all the way to Silicon Valley, before returning with them to Australia for a regional tour to share their stories in communities around the country.
SheStarts is about more than any one person. It’s about more than any one startup. SheStarts is about the community coming together to showcase the potential of female entrepreneurs, to back them to succeed and inspire others to take the leap and get started.
We’ve been inspired and humbled by the enthusiasm of key players across the corporate and startup sectors, eager to collaborate to make this huge collective impact.
What was going to be simply a great opportunity for a group of women starting tech businesses has turned into a national campaign with the ambitious goal of changing the face of the startup economy.
It’s a privilege to share this opportunity with the women of Australia and to join in the movement for change.
But enough of mushy stuff… it’s time to get started.