Dolphin Tank stakes claim as alternative to “testosterone” of pitching events

A new support network for female entrepreneurs, called the Dolphin Tank, has launched in Australia in a bid to balance out a perceived male-centric approach to pitching events such as Startup Bus.


Last week, SmartCompany reported on the Australian launch of Springboard Enterprises, a not-for-profit program aiming to connect women with entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts.


In addition to Australia, the program operates in the United States and Israel. Springboard Australia is headed up by Wendy Simpson.


“In Australia, we will be seeking to build new groups of female-friendly investors from groups which may not have tried direct investment before,” Simpson says.


“We want to start investment syndicates with commercially-minded, high-net-worth women.”


“Women who… want to see their money not only make a return, but foster new businesses run by women.”


Springboard Enterprises has launched an initiative called the Dolphin Tank, which allows entrepreneurs to share their ideas “without the fear the audience will tear you to shreds”.


“Women don’t just need connections to capital – they also need connections to human capital,” Simpson says.


“Those they are pitching to are not only potential investors [but] also really impressive, high quality people who comment and who can connect them with business introductions.”


Simpson says the Dolphin Tank is different to other initiatives such as the Startup Bus, which, according to her, doesn’t seem to attract many female entrepreneurs.


The brainchild of US-based Australian entrepreneur Elias Bizannes, the Startup Bus requires teams to build innovative start-ups on a bus bound for South by Southwest in Texas.


The first Startup Bus journey in 2010 had 25 participants. This year, it has 300, including Australian entrepreneurs Bart Jellema, Scott Cowley and Ivan Vanderbyl.


But according to Simpson, the Startup Bus concept – which is essentially a start-up competition – is flawed when it comes to women.


“The whole approach seems to be based on a kind of testosterone, pumped up ‘We have to win, we’ll kill the competition’ [mindset],” Simpson says.


“Women often care about how the other competitors are faring as well.”


“The [attitude of] ‘I don’t care how you go – it is all about me and my business winning’ is often not attractive for women, as we know a successful business is part of an ecosystem, so we need to take others on the journey with us.”


Springboard Australia isn’t the only support network pushing the plight of female entrepreneurs.


WEConnect International – a US-based, non-profit organisation that aims to help female-led businesses win contracts in global markets – launched this week in Australia.


Since 2009, WEConnect International has worked with public and private sector partners in markets such as Canada, the United Kingdom, China, India and Peru.


Through WEConnect’s professional network, female business owners can connect with multinationals interested in broadening their supply chains with smaller, innovative vendors.


Elizabeth Vazquez, co-founder and chief executive of WEConnect International, said in a statement the regional sponsor of WEConnect Australasia is the Westpac Group.


“With forward-thinking corporate members such as the Westpac Group… we’re opening the doors for female entrepreneurs to make a difference in the way they do business,” she said.


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