News & Analysis

New Zealand accelerator Lightning Lab launches program for women-led startups

- September 30, 2015 2 MIN READ

New Zealand accelerator Lightning Lab has opened applications for Lightning Lab XX, the country’s first accelerator program focused on women-led startups.

Set to run in Wellington from March next year, the program is looking for ten startups that have at least one woman serving in an executive role. They must also be able to show some degree of traction, cannot have raised any funds beyond a seed round, and must have, of course, a highly scalable business model. Participants will receive $20,000 in funding for 6 percent equity.

The first three months of the four month program will focus on gaining traction ahead of demo day, while the last month will centre on raising investment. The startups in Lightning Lab’s last two classes raised a collective NZ$4.4 million.

Though Startup Daily’s Mat Beeche wrote about Wellington’s progressive startup ecosystem in July and the high number of women founders seen there, the city – and New Zealand as a whole – isn’t immune to the problems plaguing other startup cities around the world. The 2013 New Zealand census showed that women accounted for just 28 percent of those employed in the IT sector; while this number has likely increased in accordance with global trends over the last two years, the simple fact is that women are still under represented in the country’s tech space.

As more and more data is showing, increasing the number of women in tech will help not only women, but the tech world in general. Silicon Valley VC firm First Round Capital looked over the numbers from its first ten years in business and found that of its 300 portfolio companies and nearly 600 founders, the startups with at least one female founder did 63 percent better in terms of increasing company valuation since the firm’s first investment than startups with all-male founder teams.

Lightning Lab is hoping to create a more diverse ecosystem with the XX program, stating it will “provide the right environment for 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.” 

These coaches and mentors include STQRY founder Ezel Kokcu, telecommunications entrepreneur Annette Presley, Wipster COO Kristen Lunman, and Steve O’Connor, Creative HQ’s head of acceleration.

The focus on providing the “right environment” for women founders is key. Though countless women have made it through accelerator and incubator programs around the world, a frequent criticism levelled at these programs is that they are, just like the tech world in general, geared towards male tastes and interests. Creating an environment geared towards women can make a significant difference.

Lightning Lab XX is just one in a long line of women-focused initiatives that have emerged over the last few months. Most recently, River City Labs last week announced its first Startup Weekend Brisbane Women, while Forming Circles Global launched Kickstart Your Business, offering one female-founded or female-led startup $5,000 in cash and the opportunity to be mentored by women who have succeeded in their industry.

Applications for Lightning Lab XX close in December.