News & Analysis

Startup Victoria launches mentorship program for female founders

- March 21, 2016 2 MIN READ

Startup Victoria has launched Ignite, a six month mentorship program for female founders. Looking to fill the gaps facing entrepreneurs who are not quite yet ready for or have completed an incubator or accelerator program, the program will have mentors and mentees focus on hitting two of six core milestones the organisation believes are key to success.

These milestones include successfully launching an MVP or beta, landing a spot in an accelerator or incubator program, reaching a revenue or customer milestone, producing an investor manifesto, pitch deck, or finance models to begin investor outreach, raising funds to grow user base or revenue, or locking in a major partner or first major customer.

Startup Victoria board director Michelle Bourke said the program has come about as a result of the organisation gathering data and observation’s on the ground over the last two years, looking at what has worked for female founders and what hasn’t.

“I put together a pathway map, something that allowed us to compare the female-funded or founded startups in the ecosystem and we found some gaps. We found that particularly in Victoria, we only have [Melbourne Accelerator Program], which is open only to teams with a graduate of Melbourne University and AngelCube, which is open to eight teams or so a year,” Bourke said.

“Both those programs run around the same time a year, so if you’re doing something else or miss out, there’s nothing else aimed at getting you to that next step. Our goal is to work with founders to get them to whatever that next step is. Right now there’s nothing in between these things, nothing that asks what it is you want to achieve over the next six months, and how they can help you get there.”

As such, the Startup Victoria program is customised to each individual founder, connecting them with a mentor that has experience in their market or with what their business is looking to do or a key KPI a founder is looking to reach.

“For us it was about looking at all the different stages someone might be at and the critical things we know are needed to get them to the next step,” Bourke said.

The program, which is open to premium members of Startup Victoria, will be bringing on both male and female mentors, with Bourke explaining that while it’s a female-focused program, Startup Victoria believes it is critical not to limit the knowledge available.

“Obviously, because it’s focused on women there’s absolutely a gender element to it, but I think that if you were to ask someone if they wanted to just learn from female teachers and if they thought they would get well-rounded knowledge from that, few would say that was a good idea. If we’re working together we’re always going to be more valuable than when we work apart,” she said.

Mentors and mentees will be asked to keep track of their progress and communication through MentorLoop, an online mentoring platform launched by Victorian entrepreneurs Lucy Lloyd and Heidi Holmes. With the program itself being the formalisation of a process that Startup Victoria has already been doing for some time, Bourke said the organisation is keen to make sure it is tracking results to measure its own impact and improve.

Learn more about the program here.

Image: Michelle Bourke.