SBE Australia has revealed plans to take its E3: Empower, Evolve, Escalate program across the country, with Melbourne next in line to host the startup workshop for female founders.
The E3 program is designed to encourage female founders to develop confidence and build high-growth technology businesses that are sustainable and investor-ready.
The eight-week program is already in its fifth week in Sydney, and is offered as an educational workshop to fill the gap in the market for early-stage female focused startup programs.
SBE Australia is a not for profit organisation that has partnered with US-based Springboard Enterprises to run the Springboard Enterprises Australia Accelerator program for the past five years.
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The organisation developed the E3 workshop program after seeing a need for early-stage female founders to be supported in building scaleable and sustainable startups, according to SBE Australia general manager Julie Demsey.
Demsey says the aim of the E3 program is to nurture startups that may not yet be ready to be accepted into the Springboard Accelerator program: a stage where she says women “often don’t find enough support”.
“Our aim is to give females equal access to community networks and capital … It’s really important — especially for females — to dive into their business and understand their financials, understand their business drivers and to speak from a point of confidence,” Demsey tells StartupSmart.
“You know the statistics about the amount of funding that goes towards female founders — we want to level the playing field,” she says.
“The best way to address gender bias is to support females growing strong, independent companies.”
Applications are now open for the Melbourne E3 program and close on September 10, with the program set to kick off on October 10, 2017.
The Melbourne cohort will be 8-15 participants strong, and while any female across Australia can apply, applicants need to be in an “executive position” in their startup, which should be scaleable and operating within the tech sector.
The program is also set to roll out in Brisbane and Perth over the next 12 months, and SBE Australia says it will be gauging interest for the program and continuing to expand its offerings in areas that see the most demand for the workshops, “whether that’s a big city or a regional town”, Demsey says.
“Don’t do it alone”: Advice for female founders
Concerns about diversity, harassment and “toxic” company cultures have been prominent in the startup ecosystem in recent months, including in Australia. However, for Demsey, these debates serve to further validate the need for female-focused support programs.
“I think [for female founders] it’s important to be aware of the things that are going on, but to understand that you have the strength and the power to go forward and create your own business,” she says.
“First of all you should not let these things stop you, and second of all if they do happen speak up, stand your ground.”
“That’s part of why we’re doing these programs — to show we have the role models out there showing that it can be done, and that it has been done.”
For female founders staring out on their startup journey, Demsey says it’s essential to be “looking for a network, looking for a community, and getting support”.
“I think its really important to remember you don’t have to do everything yourself,” she says.
“We often think we have to know everything and that asking questions is a sign of weakness; asking questions is actually a sign of strength.
“Don’t do it alone, reach out to people, [look at] programs like ours and others that are out there that will help you develop that confidence and strength and network.”
At this early stage is launching a startup, Demsey says confidence and self-assurance are critical, especially when pitching to customers and investors.
“People are worried about coming across as boastful — as a business leader it’s really important to be able to express yourself from a point of confidence without worrying about that,” Demsey advises.
“It takes practice for women especially — it’s something that’s a little more Australian, the notion of ‘Tall Poppy syndrome’,” she says.
“Part of it is how we [women] are socialised. It comes back to little girls who speak up when they are young — they’re told they’re bossy, whereas little boys don’t get told that. I think when that’s your upbringing sometimes you make yourselves a little more diminutive without even realising it.”