Is Australia’s tech start-up scene a self-satisfied boys’ club?

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4. Blue Chilli

 

Key person: Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin

 

Female? No.

 

Sydney-based accelerator Blue Chilli fares comparatively well, gender-wise, when it comes to the businesses it partners with.

 

Founder Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin says that around 20% of start-ups that pitch to him are headed by women, with the business investing in six female-led ventures so far. By comparison, eight are male-led, with a further two having both a male and female founder.

 

Despite having a rough 50-50 split in its founder base, Eckersley-Maslin admits more needs to be done: “I’d like to have more female start-ups pitch to us, of course, but we can’t actively influence the people who apply to us.”

 

“I can see where the perception of the tech industry as a boys club comes from, but there are networks such as Head Over Heels challenging this and there certainly isn’t a negative perception to women at Blue Chilli.”

 

Sonia Domeyko, founder of social commerce site SwarmIn, says that the situation is improving.

 

Domeyko, who has partnered with Blue Chilli to launch her business, says that she has noticed more women in the tech arena after taking a career break to have children.

 

“I think things have come on leaps and bounds – even as a consumer, I come across business models that are being founded by women,” she says. “IT can certainly be a bit of a boys club, but the consumer web is certainly something that is being heavily influenced by the social and purchasing power of women.”

 

 

5. Pollenizer

 

Key people: Mick Liubinskas and Phil Morle

 

Either of them women? No.

 

Although two of Pollenizer’s leading investments – Posse and 99dresses – have female founders, the Sydney incubator admits it hopes to partner with more women entrepreneurs in the future.

 

Co-founder Mick Liubinskas says: “We’ve had fairly good representation of female founders in the past, probably more than average… [But] I’d love to see more female engineers and more female founders.”

 

According to Liubinskas, approximately 20% of the team members in Pollenizer’s portfolio companies are female.

 

“Pollenizer itself, being more of an engineering and product-focused firm, is more male-dominated than female.”

 

“There are four females in the team at Pollenizer, out of 20. That’s one fifth, which is not too bad but not great. Our general manager of operations is a female.”

 

“In terms of the industry, it’s a risk-taking industry. You need a bit of an ego and you need the confidence to go and do it. There might be some things there that are more male-dominated.”

 

 

6. Startmate

 

Key people: Co-founders David Jones and Niki Scevak.

 

Either of them women? No.

 

Few would argue that Startmate has provided a significant leg-up to a clutch of Australia’s most promising tech businesses.

 

Each one of the inaugural four start-ups last year managed to attract external funding, with one, Grabble, even being acquired by US retail behemoth Walmart.

 

However, it’s noticeable that latest batch of eight start-ups are dominated by those with the Y chromosome.

 

Indeed, of the 23 founders that have flocked through the doors as Startmate’s class of 2012, a mere three are women.

 

Startmate’s list of mentors is even more one-sided. Embarrassingly, of the 32 leading industry figures that offer their money and advice to the selected start-ups, just one – Tjoos co-founder Kim Chen – is female.

 

 

7. AngelCube

 

Key people: Andrew Birt, Andrew Stone and Richie Khoo.

 

How many of this trio are women? Zero.

 

AngelCube is one of the newest start-up incubators in Australia, choosing its first four start-ups, each getting $20,000 each in seed capital, in September.

 

It’s unclear what, if any, female involvement there is in RentWant.com, Lexim.com.au, TestPilot.me and Goodfil.ms, with AngelCube’s three (male) founders not responding to calls at the time of publication.

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