Female entrepreneurs participating in SheHacks hackathons will now have the opportunity to continue working on their startup idea in an incubator post-event, thanks to a new program run by Girl Geek Academy.
Girl Geek Academy is a Melbourne-based organisation founded in 2014 that runs female-focused hackathons, workshops and events in an effort to promote gender diversity in the tech ecosystem. It recently secured $1.3 million in funding to execute its female-first programs, and its most recent SheHacks event was the largest all-female hackathon in the world, according to co-founder and chief executive Sarah Moran.
The eight-week SheHacks incubator program is designed to encourage hackathon participants to continue working on building their product and maintaining team relationships post-event.
“So many times you see a hackathon happen, there’s so much energy, then nothing happens afterwards” Moran tells StartupSmart.
“To build momentum we need to keep pushing … providing support and then the trajectory to get from the hackathon [stage] to a fully fledged startup,” she says.
The incubator will be led by Holly Liu, co-founder of global mobile gaming developer Kabam, who will be the entrepreneur in residence. Liu will work alongside Startup Onramp founder Colin Kinner to guide startups through workshops about growth hacking, marketing and branding, idea validation and pitching to investors, with the program culminating in a demo day in September.
Moran hopes the incubator will play a key role in ensuring strong female relationships are formed within the startup ecosystem. She sees hackathons as crucial not only for the products that are created, but for the relationships that are forged.
“What is always a delight is to see the friendships that come out of it,” she says.
“Hackathons are about building teams not products … the team is healthy, they’ve had this really strong bonding moment, we want them to keep investing [through participation in the incubator].”
Girl Geek Academy has also opened applications for participation in the incubator to startups who didn’t attend this year’s hackathon event.
The incubator program is the latest move from members of the Melbourne startup ecosystem to support of female entrepreneurship and follows Melbourne startup Envato’s pledge to promote gender diversity and inclusivity in its company, which includes a partnership with Code Like a Girl.
The issue of gender diversity in Australian startups has come to the fore in recent weeks, after accusations against 500 Startup’s ex-chief Dave McClure sparked worldwide discussion over the lack of diversity in many top startups. This led to an open letter being signed by over 60 prominent Australian startups and investors, who called for increased efforts to promote diversity in the Australian startup ecosystem.
But away from the headlines, Moran believes that “micro-aggressions and death by a thousand cuts” lie at the heart of the gender diversity issues in Australia’s startup ecosystem.
Moran suggests there are some simple, yet meaningful ways the startup ecosystem can start to combat this.
“Nametags are the most inclusive things you can do,” she says, adding that using nametags at events can be used to minimise the social anxieties inherent in networking and team building.
“It’s the little things that make the big change — it all stacks up,” she says.