BlueChilli’s female-led startup accelerator SheStarts is looking to help its alumni network go global as it opens applications for its second cohort, after receiving a recent $500,000 funding boost from the Australian government.
Launched in October last year with a $1 million fund from BlueChilli, SheStarts bills itself as the the country’s only venture-backed national tech accelerator that is designed specifically to support female entrepreneurs.
The first SheStarts cohort graduated in August this year having launched startups across range of industries including agritech, consumer technology and fintech, and this next intake will welcome 10 female-led startups from across Australia who have a startup idea that they want to make a reality.
“We specialise in helping pre-product, idea-stage female entrepreneurs, who are mostly solo founders with no tech co-founder, to take an idea out of their head and into the market,” SheStarts director and BlueChilli’s head of diversity and impact Nicola Hazell tells StartupSmart.
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SheStarts’ second intake will be backed with $500,000 in funding from the federal government as part of the $1.57 million in incubator grants it announced last week to help Australian startups enter global markets.
The grants are offered under the Australian Government’s Incubator Support Program, and will award funding of $500,000 apiece to four incubator programs: Flinders University’s New Venture Institute, Collective Campus’ corporate accelerator programs, FD Global Connections and SheStarts.
SheStarts will now use the funding to help its alumni of female founders make an impact on the global stage, providing resources for founders establishing themselves in overseas markets, with a focus on the US and South-East Asia.
“We’re really determined to see more Australian women launching and taking their startup global … this funding will allow us to ensure we have the right personnel to support these founders,” Hazell says.
“We live in a globalised world and technology means any product we develop in Australia can, should and must be applied in global markets.”
This funding will be used to expand BlueChilli’s team to support startups on the ground in international locations, as well as bringing international entrepreneurs back to Australia to engage with local female founders.
“We want to have people who are supporting these startups both here and abroad, working with them to make sure these companies are reaching into these international markets and becoming global juggernauts,” Hazell says.
Applications for the SheStarts accelerator are now open, and while participants in the last cohort each received $100,000 in capital, Hazell says the program’s investment offerings have been re-vamped for its second intake.
The 10 startups selected will now receive $25,000 in pre-seed capital in exchange for BlueChilli taking 15% equity in the startup, as well as more than $100,000 in software credits, accounting, financial and legal services. Startups will now also have access to BlueChilli’s team of in-house advisors and developers, who will build a minimum viable product at no cost to the founder, as well as a sponsored trip to Silicon Valley and New York to provide access to international partnerships and markets.
The six-month program will also see its cohort working with SheStarts foundation partners ANZ and MYOB to develop, scale and grow their business, in addition to receiving mentoring from BlueChilli’s global network of advisors.
Early-stage female founders Australia-wide can apply for the accelerator program, with applications open until November 6, 2017.
Going global from day one
Hazell says SheStarts has “a lot of skin in the game” with all the startups that go through the program, and is fundamentally driven by a desire to boost female voices and representation on a global stage.
“The reality is all around the world there are so few examples of global companies lead by women: we need to change that,” she says.
“We need to ensure that fifty percent of our population isn’t missing out, and there’s never been a more important time to ask, ‘How do we change the ratio, how do we change the status quo?'”
Hazell sees change stemming from producing and supporting more female business leaders, who have the ability to shape and lead society in the future.
“The top tech companies in the world are not only the top companies on the NASDAQ, they also shape the way we lead our lives, the way we live, our politics,” she says.
“Imagine if those companies also had female leadership.”
SheStarts wants to further foster this female leadership, and Hazell says the accelerator aims to nurture companies that will eventually “become the ones influencing our economy, shaping our communities, driving the way the think about society”.
“We genuinely think we can change things and we can move the needle,” she says.