In the face of all this US circusery, here's a good news story of the day.
On Wednesday 26 October, The University of Melbourne held its inaugural Master of Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition where 11 startups competed for one of two $10,000 ‘Best Startup Pitch’ prizes. While everyone who presented was a winner, it being the culmination of the intensive one-year course, the clear stand-out was the support for female founders with the majority of the presenting teams having women.
Bucking the trends
Only 24% of Australian startups founded in 2014 had female founders, according to a2015 survey conducted by Startup Muster. The Wade Institute, home to The University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship, beat this trend in its inaugural year with a diverse cohort of students that included 60% women, 40% with a STEM degree, and three Ph.D.’s.
Acting General Manager of Wade Institute, Georgia McDonald, is proud that Wade is a meritocracy that welcomes people of all backgrounds.
“Our application and selection process is based on capability, potential, and passion; this is intrinsically gender-neutral, and that’s how we like it. We know we need a cohort of students with a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and expertise to help us create a robust learning environment. But to achieve this, we needed to attract diverse individuals before they’d even made the leap and submitted an application. When I spoke with prospective students, particularly women, I coached them not to let self-doubt deter them. They have everything they need already in their hands to make the leap now.”
Eleanor Toulmin, Master of Entrepreneurship student and Co-founder of one of the winning teams, is a great example of a woman who opted-in and feels empowered by Wade’s gender-inclusive environment.
“I’ve finally found a place where it’s OK to be a woman who is smart and ambitious. In fact, it’s rewarded and encouraged," she said.
Toulmin's AgTech startup, MimicTec, is developing a physical product that will improve the productivity and animal welfare in poultry farming. Before even graduating, the team have been accepted into two startup accelerators, SproutX and Melbourne Accelerator Program’s Escape Velocity – a great endorsement of their product and their capability as entrepreneurs.
Fighting imposter syndrome
Only a fraction of VC-backed ventures are led by women.
If we’re to reverse this trend women need to be ready, willing, and able to put up their hand and opt-in earlier in their journey. That’s why it’s important for us to encourage and support women to overcome their self-doubt and throw their hat in the ring.
One of the winners from the night was Bindi Raja, founder of MedTech startup Teenyco. Despite winning the CMB Capital ‘Best Startup Pitch’ $10,000 prize, Raja acknowledges that imposter syndrome followed her all the way to the stage.
“Even right before I got up on that stage to pitch, I didn’t think I belonged there. I compared myself to others thinking, of course, they could do it – they’re smarter, more articulate.”
“But this year, I’ve learned that if I don’t back myself, why would anyone else. Irrespective of if anyone else understood my idea or not, I knew it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t believe in myself. That was all I needed and getting off that stage, I knew I gave it my best. This year taught me to be OK with taking two steps instead of expecting ten every time and then feeling the pressure of not being good enough. Two steps forward is still moving me in the right direction.”
Making an impact
Madeleine Grummet, Master of Entrepreneurship student and mother of four daughters, is passionate about leading by example.
“If you want to change a generation you start with the girls. And with innovation, entrepreneurship, diversity and female leadership firmly on the agenda right now, I believe it’s time to build the ecosystem from the bottom up.”
Madeleine pitched her startup, GirledWorld, with her fellow classmate and co-founder, Edwina Kolomanski, to a highly responsive audience who cheered in support.
“Acting as a preventative measure to address the gender imbalance in STEM, startup, and leadership fields when they first emerge, GirledWorld is feeding the startup pipeline and building pathways for girls aged 15-18 through events, mentoring, internships and e-learning tools for Australian schools."
They recently signed a partnership deal with Airbnb to support their upcoming conference – part of Airbnb’s commitment to fighting against bias and discrimination.
Other female-founded startups from the Master of Entrepreneurship 2016 cohort includeM-Time, service-based startup giving busy parents more time for themselves by providing a Mum or Dadcierge, Mind My Business, online platform connecting small business owners with skilled ‘Relievers’ who can mind the business, and Ikora, online fashion marketplace that creates a personalised shop based on the user’s style and brand preference.
In further support of female founders, Wade Institute offers a $25,000 scholarship to study the Master of Entrepreneurship, provided by Naomi Milgrom, CEO of Sussan Group.
For a summary of all the startups that presented at the Pitch Night, click here.
Application deadline to study the Master of Entrepreneurship in 2017:
Wednesday 30 November 2016. Apply here.
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Article courtesy The Wade Institute, Melbourne University.