All levels of government in Australia must work together to encourage women in tech and improve diversity in the sector, Springboard Australia chair Topaz Conway says.
The Australia-wide startup accelerator program for women-led tech companies has just announced the 10 businesses selected for its 2017 program, and Ms Conway says the program is one of many crucial elements hoping to lead the industry towards equality.
“We’re a long way from equality in the sector,” Ms Conway tells InnovationAus.com. “The underlying message about why Springboard is important is that we are a long way as a country, and a world, from ensuring that women have equal opportunities to be successful. And gender bias does exist in every sector.”
“It takes a real and long-term commitment by government as well as things like Springboard to really shift the dial. The government has to motivate investors and women entrepreneurs – there’s an economic argument for it.”
And this requires politicians at all levels of government to work together for the common good, she says.
“Everyone benefits from talking to each other,” Ms Conway says. “Working in isolation on a national level is kind of crazy.
“There are always benefits in working together and finding out who is doing what well and how different governments can either support or fill gaps in what is being done.”
“Everyone has a part to play and a responsibility. It’s when it gets politicised that we run into problems.”
State governments, mainly Victoria and Queensland, are leading the way with innovation policy, leaving the federal government in their wake, she says.
“Some states are doing some really assertive programs to ensure they are at the front end of supporting entrepreneurs,” Ms Conway says. “States are getting down into the trenches with the entrepreneurial community and trying to support them in whatever way they can.”
At a federal level, it’s too early to say if the movements from the Turnbull Government late last year will be effective. But it has at least shifted the debate about innovation around the country, Ms Conway says.
“The fact that we’re talking about it is the positive,” she says.
“The fact that it is being acknowledged and recognised to be an important factor in the government discussion and agenda is important. The NISA initiative is still in its really early stages, and we’re yet to see how that pans out. That’s a huge initiative and an attempt to really address the gaps that are out there.”
The latest Springboard Australia intake includes Victorian Renece Brewster, founder of video personalisation company Data Creativer and Sujata Karandikar, founder of an information exchange platform for suppliers and corporates.
Since launching in 2013, 36 women have participated in the Springboard program in Australia, with 80 per cent going on to raise external funding for their companies. Of these companies, 60-70 per cent have expanded internationally and one is set to list on the ASX.
Ms Conway says the organisation received more than 70 applications that were eventually whittled down to the final 10, with the judges on the hunt for ambitious but grounded founders.
“There are some really amazing, strong women and companies that with Springboard I’m sure are going to find this whole expansion proposition a lot easier and a lot more supportive,” she says.
“This year was really interesting. We’ve been relatively heavy on the enterprise software end of things for the last two years, but this year we’ve got a much broader interest from companies that weren’t necessarily SaaS or enterprise-level software.”
The 2017 Springboard Accelerator intake:
- Bookmarc – Helen Awali (NSW)
- Coviu Global Pty Ltd – Silvia Pfeiffer (NSW)
- Data Creative – Renece Brewster (VIC)
- Elanation – Katherine Pace (NSW)
- Instatruck – Siobhan Lancaster (WA)
- Life Cell Marine Safety – Kenny Aiken (NSW)
- Modibodi – Kristy Chong (NSW)
- TCPinpoint – Rachel Kidwell (SA)
- Unscrabble – Sujata Karandikar (QLD)
- UrbanYou – Noga Edelstein (NSW)