Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) : First Startup Accelerator for Women-founded Companies in Mobile Technology
4% of Y Combinator’s graduated founders are female while that number is 20%, 10% and 25% for the Founder Institute, Techstars and 500 Startups respectively. Women Innovate Mobile hopes to develop a more diverse startup ecosystem by helping promising women-led mobile ventures.
WIM is a three-month mentorship driven accelerator program and the first program is taking place in New York City from March 26 to June 29. The participating companies will receive $18,000 in funding, free office space, product development and design support, mobile-marketing promotions, and access to a network of mentors, funders and advisors. In exchange for the investment and services, WIM receives a 6% equity stake in each company.
“The idea came from looking at the tech scene and seeing that basically no or very few women were participating in existing accelerator programs” cofounder and Managing Director Kelly Hoey.
Credit for the idea of Women Innovate Mobile belongs with the cofounder, Veronika Sonsev. Veronika is also a cofounder of Women in Wireless (as well as being the CEO and founder of her own startup, inSparq). Women in Wireless promotes and develops women leaders in mobile and digital media. Veronika approached Deborah and Kelly about joining forces on the idea.
“We’re not excluding men from applying for Women Innovate Mobile, we’re simply requiring diversity in the founding team’s composition. It is important to us that the founding team include a woman. As great or lucrative as it may be to be one of the first employees of a company, it is even better to be calling the shots as the owner – the Mark vs Randi Zuckerberg scenario.” says Kelly.
Women entrepreneurs from anywhere can apply. If they are not US citizens, then they would need to ensure they are in the US legally. All the companies selected to participate in the first program must relocate to New York City for the entire 3-month program.
On women entrepreneurs from outside the US taking part in the program, Kelly says “Participating in an accelerator is a full-time commitment. And some of the greatest benefits of the program have nothing to do with the money; rather, it is all about the networks and access, learning opportunities, hands on mentoring and constant feedback. These benefits cannot be delivered remotely or over the course of a few days. When our first program is completed we will consider our options and opportunities, including expanding the program geographically”.
So what are the challenges women entrepreneurs and developers face? According to Kelly two of the biggest challenges are:
- Lack of tech role models for female developers. It is difficult to imagine yourself having a career in a field where you don’t see a lot of people who look like you.
- For women entrepreneurs, funding and access to funding networks (which are predominately male) is a major hurdle to scaling their businesses