Zone Startups India’s flagship initiative for women entrepreneurs, empoWer, announced two tracks in Tech and Tech for Social Impact as part of its 3rd edition this year. empoWer, India’s first tech accelerator for women entrepreneurs was launched in April 2016, and has since grown tremendously with 2 successful editions, with many of its cohort members going on to achieve various accolades in their business.
Over the past 2 editions, 35 women entrepreneurs have been a part of 2 cohorts, and 1 bootcamp and the program has disbursed Rs 1.2 Crores in grants. Post program, a large majority of startups have raised further funding amounting to a cumulative of Rs 35 Crores.
Zone Startups is an international brand of technology accelerators and early stage venture funds managed by Ryerson Futures Inc, Canada (part of Ryerson University Network). In 2014, Zone Startups in India launched its accelerator program based out of iconic Bombay Stock Exchange building in partnership between Ryerson Futures, BSE Institute and Simon Fraser University- Vancouver. Since then, the program has launched many initiatives to support startups from different sectors and geographies.
Empower is one of the flagship initiatives which focuses on Gender diversity and supported women led startups in technology space. The past editions of empoWer was supported by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and leading corporates like HDFC, Vodafone, Capital First, PayU, ICICI Bank, Microsoft, Amazon Launchpad, and so on.
empoWer 2018 was announced on 28th September with with BSE CSR Integrated Foundation and ICCL as the industry sponsor and Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), Government of Quebec, Canada, and Amazon Launchpad as supporting partners of the program. Post the announcement, roadshows were held in 6 major cities across the country to evangelize the program and pool in various innovative startups for both the tracks – Tech and Tech for Social Impact.
Ms Devika Shah, MD and CEO of ICCL says, “There is a need to create an ecosystem to encourage entrepreneurship so that we have more job creators and not job seekers in the technology space in our country. Also currently the percentage of women tech entrepreneurs is very low. However, I believe there are plenty of women working hard to buck the trend and we need to support, encourage and enable them to do so”.
Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director (India), Zone Startups says, “When we were starting out in 2016, empoWer was an experiment to gauge the need of a program focused on women entrepreneurs. Being able to attract such number of applications over the years, is a validation for us; and more importantly showcases the increasing number of women entrepreneurs in the country. We have only 32% repeat applications over the previous year. This year we have spun off a parallel track, so that we are able to accommodate a higher number of women entrepreneurs leveraging tech for social good. We aim to expand the program year on year. Congrats to selected 30 entrepreneurs. We look forward to creating many more success stories”.
empoWer received response from over 285 women entrepreneurs from a Pan-India application pool. Zone Startups India formed an evaluation committee comprising of 10 industry experts, to evaluate and select the 30 startups to be a part of this year’s program.
After a thorough and competitive selection process, involving application evaluation and personal interviews, 30 startup founders were selected for the 6-week accelerator program. The program will comprise of mentoring sessions, workshops, industry connects, case studies, peer-to-peer sessions, investor connects and a bootcamp.
As part of the program, the top 3 women entrepreneurs from each track will receive an equity-free seed fund of Rs 10 Lakhs. The top few startups of the program will also receive a 1-week market access trip to Quebec, Canada and Access to the Amazon Launchpad Program.