Why Startup Victoria is launching its first female founders mentorship program

Victoria’s leading startup body has launched a mentorship program aiming to help improve the sector’s gender diversity problem.

Startup Victoria’s Female Founders Mentorship Program helps female founders make the right connections to scale their startups successfully.

The program is needed because there is still an unnaturally low number of women leading startups, Startup Victoria board director Michelle Bourke says.

“Only 5% of VC-backed startups in the US are female founded and in Australia we’ve seen VCs as high as 25% or VCs as low as zero,” Bourke tells StartupSmart.

The potholes in the pathway

When Startup Victoria was first established, angel investor Adrian Stone provided the organisation with $10,000 to address the gender parity gap, Bourke says.

So she spent a couple of months visiting accelerators, meet-ups and organisers to understand where the potholes were in the pathways for female entrepreneurs.

“We found that women didn’t have access to the level of mentorship required to make their way to the next step,” she says.

With great mentors playing a critical role in helping founders navigate through their growth roadmaps, Bourke and her team decided to bridge this missing link.

The six-month Startup Victoria mentorship program will help five founders achieve critical milestones on their startup journey with mentors they can access through Mentorloop.

To be eligible, female founders must have at least 30% ownership of a startup, be a premium member of Startup Victoria based in the state and, at minimum, should be close to launching a startup that has a tech element.

But they’re not looking for “another Uber for X”, she says.

“We’re finding businesses we know will be able to successfully compete for the dollar and investors’ dollars,” Bourke says.

“Human resources are hot, virtual reality is hot, internet of things is hot, opportunities that tap into the China’s ecommerce market are hot.”

The program will focus on crucial steps like successfully launching an MVP or beta, revenue growth, completing pitch decks, investor outreach and locking in major partners or customers.

In return, program participants will be asked to share their journeys to inspire others to follow suit.

Applications for the program close on April 29th at 5pm and chosen founders will be announced on May 13th.

To kick things off, Startup Victoria will launch its female founders event series at co-working space One Roof on April 12th.

More women, better community

With a philosophy of “more founders, better founders”, Bourke hopes their program will ultimately enhance the broader startup community.

“It’s about addressing that gender imbalance not because women are better or anything but because when we work together we can achieve better results,” she says.

Startup Muster CEO Monica Wulff says that programs like these offer a pragmatic and resourceful approach to building better businesses.

“It is invaluable to have access to women in business who are likeminded and have been through the various stages that you and your business will be moving through,” Wulff tells StartupSmart.

“If taking part in female-focused initiatives leads to more women being part of this movement or better yet driving it then it won’t just benefit the individual, but society in general.”

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