12th of April, 2016

Boost Small Business Startup Growth With A Founder Matched Mentor

Michelle Bourke
By , CEO - Artlivemedia

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*Note: if you’re a male reading this post please read on because it’s great news if you have a female founder in your team.  If not, in the meantime Startup Victoria have launched Office Hours program which provides access to advice from successful entrepreneurs.

*If you’re a corporate leader reading this post, again, read on – this is an excellent program structure to consider for internal innovation and gender diversity programs internally.  We’d be happy to chat with you about the program and how it works.

As part of CEO of Artlivemedia Michelle Bourke’s role as Board Director of Startup Victoria and Founding Lead of the Female Founders Committee, a brand new Mentorship Program “Ignite” has been launched. The program is open to all Victorian female high-growth startup founders who want to focus on achieving two key milestones over a 6 month period.

Just over two average lifetimes ago, women were given the right to vote in Australia. 115 years on, gender diversity remains on the agenda – particularly in the world of startups where in the UK 59% of men were more likely to get VC funding than their female counterparts, or in the startup haven of San Fransisco where just 8% of startups who received Series A funding were female led (a decline of 30% from the previous year).

Women in tech are well and truly on the agenda in 2016.  From Launch Vic’s announcement of it’s board with over 50% female representation to the opening address by Susan Wu at Startup Victoria’s Above All Human Conference in January, who claimed “It’s bullshit that other conferences claim it’s hard to get to gender parity”.

And it seems further up the funnel the numbers are shifting too. Female focused growth stage accelerator Springboard Enterprises saw applications grow from less than 10 to over 100 in 2015 while female founder focused angel investor group, Scale investors which launched back in 2013 have since invested $3 million in 6 startups to date.

A 2014 report on women entrepreneurs by the Kauffman Foundation found that of the 350 female tech entrepreneurs interviewed about their chief challenges “lack of available mentors” was at the top of their list.  This is a gap that the Ignite program looks to tackle head on.

Startup Victoria Board Director and digital agency Founder, Michelle Bourke, says there are at least 100 female tech startup founders in Melbourne alone, but the challenge is in finding the promising ones and then helping to introduce them to the right networks, build partnerships, grow their customer or revenue base and access investment.

The program is aimed at driving real, reportable outcomes and will run using Melbourne based female co-founded startup, MentorLoop as the platform of communication between mentors and mentees “We’re excited to be able to run the program using a platform that has been built by the audience we’re aiming to help.” Michelle says.

Applications for the Ignite mentor program will be open until the end of March 2016.  Successful applicants will work closely with a handpicked mentor over 6 months to deliver 2 core milestones for their business.

“We didn’t think the traditional approach of tapping mentors on the shoulder first would be the most effective way to achieve real outcomes.  Instead, we’re starting by understanding who these founders are, what milestones they’re hoping to achieve and the type of business they’re looking to grow.  From there we can individually match startups with most appropriate mentor for the best chance at success.  And the search won’t be limited by location – if the right mentor is in Perth or San Fran or London or Israel then that’s where we’ll look.”

80,000 hours.org has compared a number of social intervention type programs and those that match the unique needs of a mentee with a mentor over a longer period of time achieve the most positive results so Ignite’s unique approach is focused in the right direction.

To be eligible, female founded startups must be current members of Startup Victoria, have at least 30% ownership in their startup, be based in Victoria and be close to MVP/beta launch or further in their journey.  The program is free, but each successful applicant will be responsible for sharing their story with the community and reporting the outcomes of their mentorship experience.

Startup Victoria’s Female Founder Committee will report on the difference the program makes to the startup ecosystem and the Victorian economy collectively by number of jobs, capital raised, introductions made and customer or revenue growth supported.

  • To find out more about the program and eligibility criteria, go here
  • To book OfficeHours with Michelle or other entrepreneurs, go here
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