Sydney startup accelerator BlueChilli has announced the launch of a female-focused program called SheStarts at an event celebrating International Women's Day earlier this week. The new program will not only help fund and mentor ten female tech entrepreneurs who are to launch their startups this year, but will also chronicle their journeys for a feature-length documentary.
Besides its goal of funding female-driven startups, one of the goals of the program is to produce a documentary following the lives of the ten chosen entrepreneurs — from application to investor meetings, shining a light on the oft-ignored stories of women in tech. With women making up only 7% of people currently working in tech, and only 19% of startup founders, it's about time the Australian startup scene saw an initiative like SheStarts. Not only will SheStarts encourage ten more women to work towards their tech startup dreams, it will also bring much-needed attention to the issue of diversity within the tech sphere — and hopefully help to redefine what a 'tech entrepreneur' looks like.
The impetus for this new program came after it was pointed out that only 10 per cent of the BlueChilli's announced finalists —and 13% of applicants — were female. "Although I have no problem picking the best of the best irrespective of gender – we have no ‘targets’ to fill – only having 13 percent female applicants is a problem that needs to be addressed," said BlueChilli's general manager, Colette Grigic, also admitting that a program specifically targeting women should have been introduced years ago.
SheStarts will provide its ten chosen entrepreneurs with a $100,000 seed investment and mentorship throughout a 6 month accelerator program. The final ten will be narrowed down from 20 finalists who will complete a two week validation bootcamp, working with expert startup advisors and experienced entrepreneurs to continue to refine their ideas. After this intensive bootcamp comes the 'Big Pitch', which is followed by SheStarts' 6 month accelerator, and finally the program will arrange investor pitch events for its participants.
While SheStarts has not opened for applications yet, the program information is already available online, and interested entrepreneurs can join an early-bird mailing list to stay informed of any updates to the program's official launch.