Startup News & Analysis

Jo Burston’s Rare Birds teams up with CAMP to help female founders thrive

Angela Castles /

CAMP

Andrea Myles, chief executive and co-founder of the CAMP program. Source: Supplied.

Global female entrepreneur network Inspiring Rare Birds has partnered with the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) to support female founders and tackle gender bias in the tech ecosystem head-on.

Announced yesterday, the partnership aims to provide mentorship and support to female graduates of the CAMP entrepreneurial training program, while also strengthening the relationship between entrepreneurs in China and Australia.

The CAMP program takes equal numbers of men and women on a 100-day entrepreneurial training course held across Beijing and Sydney, accepting Australian and Chinese nationals and permanent residents aged between 18-40 into its 100 person-strong cohort, which will be kicking off again in March 2018.

Rare Birds was founded by prominent entrepreneur Jo Burston in 2014 to an initiative to encourage female entrepreneurs and help them access funding to kick-start their ventures.

The organisation will now lend its network of female entrepreneurs and mentors to the CAMP program, hosting events and workshops for female founders in Sydney and Beijing during the 100-day incubator.

After the completion of the program, female graduates will be welcomed into the Rare Birds community and offered support to continue to develop their business.

This partnership will also be the first step into the Chinese market for Rare Birds, which hopes to launch in the country by the end of 2018.

“Diversity is the engine of innovation”

The CAMP program is now in its second year, and co-founder and chief executive Andrea Myles says she was inspired to collaborate with Rare Birds after observing the gender bias encountered by many of the female graduates of the program.

“What we found was that the women had quite advanced leadership skills coming out of the program — they actually outstripped the men. But when it came to their entrepreneurial pursuits [post-program] we felt the guys were heading more down that [entrepreneurial] path,” Myles tells StartupSmart. 

Myles points to “structural inequalities” in the tech ecosystem as a key reason for this, observing that “when you’re facing an entrepreneurial environment that is so heavily dominated by men, of course the guys are going to go better”.

Unsatisfied with this situation, Myles was inspired to partner with Rare Birds to offer female CAMP graduates mentorship, advice and extra support.

Choosing to partner with Rare Birds was “a no brainer”, Myles says, because the organisation is on the “forefront of innovation” in terms of supporting female entrepreneurs and tackling issues of gender equality in the sector.

“If you want the best entrepreneurship it has to be diverse,” Myles says.

Diversity is the engine of innovation. Unless you have diversity, you won’t have optimisation.” 

“Throw your hat in the ring”

Myles hopes this partnership will provide “great case studies” of entrepreneurs who are “utilising diversity as their secret sauce”, adding that the only way for females to combat gender bias is to get out there and give entrepreneurship a go.

“There are so many examples of people who have fantastic innovative entrepreneurial skill sets that count themselves out because they think this isn’t for me, I can’t see myself represented here,” Myles says. 

“You just need to throw your hat in the ring and figure out the ‘how’ later.” 

Myles says female entrepreneurs have “got to be in it to win it” and says there are three things “that will change your life” as a female founder.

“The golden triangle for women is skills, networks and confidence,” Myles says.

For female founders who are focused on building out their skill set but may be shy networking, Myles warns this “will only get you so far” and without confidence and strong support, networks skills will “just remain theoretical”.

“Make sure you’re building [these three skills] out for yourself … that’s when behavioural change starts to happen and opportunities start to open up,” she advises.

Applications for the third CAMP program are now open, with the 100-day incubator starting in Beijing in March 2018 and concluding in Sydney in June 2018.

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Angela Castles

Angela Castles is a former StartupSmart journalist.

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