Opportunities open for female founders


James Riley
Editorial Director

The government has opened its four-year $18 million Boosting Female Founders Initiative to first-round applicants with the aim give support to the women with startups with support to grow their new businesses.

But the timing of the program has been drawn into question, with so much attention – including that of the founder community and potential investors – has been drawn into question. COVID-19 is all consuming in pulling attention away from the program objectives.

The initiative provides grants specifically to female founders and is designed to address the well-documented challenges faced by women trying to take their startup business to the next level.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews said access to early stage capital remained one of the biggest challenges faced by female founders.

Karen Andrews
Karen Andrews: Female founders program is under way

Often women only raise half the capital compared to start-ups founded by men and even when they get finance, the terms can be less favourable,” Mrs Andrews said.

“This is about creating opportunity for all, because who knows what great job-creating, economy-boosting ideas could get off the ground with this support?

“The program aims to diversify the Australian startup landscape, which will promote innovation, job creation and economic growth,” she said.

Competitive grants of between $25,000 and $400,000 are available on a co-contribution basis for projects that are majority owned and led by women. The design of the program followed a lengthy consultation period with women across Australia, including in regional and rural areas.

TechSydney board member and female founder Fleur Brown said it was great to see a focus on women that in the long term would deliver fantastic benefits.

If there was a downside, it was the awkward timing of the announcement, with so many people distracted by the COVID-19 virus, Ms Brown said.

“Securing backing – and in particular investor backing – during this business-unusual period is a challenge … but right now it’s likely to be an extraordinary challenge,” she said.

“We need to be flexible about everything right now. It could be important to relax some of the timings – including submission timings and potentially adjust the timing of cash payments to make sure there is enough flexibility for people who are navigating through a very hectic and challenging business landscape at the moment.”

StartupAUS chief executive Alex McCauley said the Boosting Female Founders Initiative was a welcome development. While modest, it was targeted in the right way.

“We know from the data in the latest Crossroads report that early stage funding is an area that needs immediate attention. We also know from a wide range of data sources that women-led startups have more difficulty accessing funding than those led by men,” Mr McCauley said.

“This initiative will help address both of those concerns. If we get good results from this program I also expect governments around the country will want to look to expand on it,” he said.

Competitive grants of between $25,000 and $400,000 are available on a co-contribution basis for projects that are majority owned and led by women.

Applications for Stage 1 – Expression of Interest open today for four weeks and can be submitted here.

Meanwhile the Queensland government has opened applications for its BIO 2020 Female Business Leaders Program.

The Advance Queensland BIO 2020 Female Business Leaders Program provides support for three selected Queensland-based female founders and/or leaders to attend the 2020 BIO International Convention in San Diego, USA on 8 – 11 June 2020.

To be considered applicants must not have previously attended the convention and should be able to demonstrate the benefits of participating for themselves and their business. You can apply here.

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