BlueChilli launches $1 million fund and accelerator program to back the most promising female startup founders in Australia – StartupSmart

Blue Chilli diversity and impact head NICOLA HAZELL

Sydney accelerator BlueChilli has unveiled a $1 million early-stage startup fund to back the most promising female founders in Australia.

The fund will support participants in the SheStarts accelerator, which has just opened its applications to find 10 female founders for the inaugural program.

SheStarts director Nicola Hazell says BlueChilli has been supported by the likes of ANZ, MYOB and SunSuper to establish the fund.

“Across Australia, people are realising that we need to invest in women if we’re going to create a strong economy, whether it’s in the startup environment or the corporate environment,” Hazell tells StartupSmart.

“If we don’t take action, we won’t achieve the future we want to.”

The accelerator, which will be showcased online through a 32-week documentary series, will take founders through an intensive six-month program kicking off in January with an immersion experience in Silicon Valley hosted by Google.

Each participant will receive $100,000 in pre-seed capital and co-working space at BlueChilli incubators in Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney.

“We know that there are not enough women getting started in this country right now, they don’t necessarily have the ability to hit that runway and access to pre-seed funding is really hard to come by,” Hazell says.

Should you apply?

Hazell encourages women with an idea from every nook and cranny in Australia who has an idea to apply for SheHacks.

“We’re engaging with the unusual suspects, not just the traditional startup community,” she says.

“We’re determined to see women from all different walks of life see themselves in this opportunity. That could be a real game-changer for them and our economy.”

The application period for SheStarts ends on October 31, with 20 candidates then selected to enter a “rapid validation boot camp” where ideas and the founders themselves are pressure tested.

This stage will culminate with a pitch in December where the final 10 will be chosen.

“We genuinely believe that anyone can become a tech startup founder,” Hazell says.

“It isn’t one industry, in fact it’s every industry.

“There are women working in all parts of our economy all over the country who’ve got great ideas that can become high impact, game-changing companies.”

Changing the face of tech

Earlier this year, BlueChilli announced the SheHacks accelerator in response to criticism over the lack of women in its programs.

“Only 7% of people in tech are women and not everyone within this is going to launch their own startup,” BlueChilli corporate innovation general manager Colette Grgic told StartupSmart at the time.

“So you start looking at the 1% of 1% of 1% of the 7.”

Hazell, who recently became BlueChilli’s head of diversity and impact programs, says SheStarts will spark a nationwide movement that redefines the course for innovation in Australia.

“What excites me the most about this project is that SheStarts is about collective impact, it’s how we connect up an ecosystem to really change the face of startups and provide a runway for more women to start,” Hazell says.

“We’re really going to be able to tell a different story for what it means to be in tech and to be in startups.”

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