Applications are open for Wellington based Lightning Lab XX, New Zealand’s first ever female-founder business accelerator, which will kick off on International Women’s Day - March 8, 2016.
With far fewer women in startups than men and extensive data pointing to diverse teams performing better and generating higher returns, the programme aims to provide the right environment for female founders to thrive through the challenge of starting a company, while being supported by a diverse lineup of world-class role models, coaches and mentors.
The female-founder vertical will take up to 10 startups that have at least one female co-founder in each team.
The programme will harness Lightning Lab’s proven track record to boost the historically low number of females in startups in order to foster a more diverse and productive entrepreneurial ecosystem within Wellington and across New Zealand.
Lightning Lab is New Zealand’s premier business accelerator, run by CreativeHQ, a unit of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) - its programmes to date have helped 45 ventures accelerate their business and attract over $8M in seed capital.
Chris Whelan, Chief Executive of WREDA, says Lightning Lab XX is an exciting development for the successful programme.
“Developing business growth and acceleration pipelines are essential to long-term growth for the NZ economy,” Whelan says.
“Our Lightning Lab programme helps visionary entrepreneurs mould their ideas into investible companies with global potential.
“Using initiatives like Lightning Lab XX and the currently in progress Lightning Lab Manufacturing, our vision is to create a stronger, more diverse, and ultimately more productive startup ecosystem for Wellington and New Zealand.”
While there is currently little New Zealand specific data available on females in startups, the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report stated that a “lack of gender equality is common across all startup ecosystems. No ecosystem comes close to an equal share of male and female founders.”
According to the report, 18 percent of the top 20 startups worldwide have a female founder amongst their team this year.
Data from various studies also suggest that diverse teams perform better and generate higher returns.
Silicon Valley venture capital firm, First Round Capital this year looked at 300 of its portfolio companies and almost 600 founders, and found “that teams with at least one female founder did 63 percent better than the all-male founder teams.”
Programme Director Laura Reitel says that the accelerator is an important foothold in improving these figures.
“Anyone working within the startup world knows that females are not well represented in technical or founder roles,” she adds.
“With Lightning Lab XX we hope to take a solid step towards changing the ratio of women in business in New Zealand.”
Anna Guenther, CEO/Chief Bubble Blower of Wellington based crowdfunding platform Pledgeme, is a big advocate of the female founder programme.
“I support anything that shines the light on female entrepreneurs, because in order to be it you have to see it,” Guenther adds.
“I love that the conversation around who and how companies are founded is changing, and that more and more diversity is supported in Wellington’s startup space.”
Guenther notes that through Pledgeme she has seen women who are great at activating support but “sometimes need someone to shoulder tap them to lead. And that's what Lightning Lab XX is doing, shoulder tapping the next generation of female founders."
Criteria for the Lightning Lab XX programme include:
FEMALE LED: The programme has a ‘female led’ focus, rather than being female exclusive. Startups must have at least one female serving in an executive role to apply.
COMPANY STAGE: Startups at all stages will be considered, however those that haven’t previously raised investment beyond family/friends or seed funding will have the most to gain from the programme.
TRACTION: The application process will favour startups that have achieved some degree of traction – revenue, contracts, strategic partnership, etc.
HIGH GROWTH: Participating startups must have a scalable business model and be able to illustrate high growth potential.
INDUSTRY AGNOSTIC: Startups within any industry will be considered, and product and services businesses alike welcome to enter the programme.
X FACTOR: The programme will be seeking out extraordinary founders leading startups tied to their deep and personal passions.