Finding The Right Accelerator Program For Women Entrepreneurs

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Learnings from the "Exploring the Top Startup Accelerator Programs" panel at SXSW. By Dana Rosenberg (Startup Enthusiast, Self)

It’s no secret that technology startups is a male-dominated field. As a woman in tech, and with the recent rise of accelerator programs, I wanted to hear about startup accelerators that have proven benefits to female entrepreneurs.

At a panel at SXSW on finding the right accelerator program for you, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask the panelists about their approach to female founders. I wanted to know what percent of their companies are female founded, whether they take gender into account when selecting their classes and whether they feel it should influence a female entrepreneur’s choice of joining the program.

Each accelerator had a different perspectives on the answer:

TechStars shows gender-neutral admissions can result in female-strong classes

David Cohen (Founder & CEO, TechStars) explained that TechStars does not take female founders into account when selecting their companies - "We don't even ask about gender in the application."

Despite their gender neutral process, TechStars' newest class boasts a very high percentage of female founders, welcoming 8 female founders (6 female CEOs) of 14 new startups! Intentional or not, TechStars is leading by example.

Tech Wildcatters is focusing on recruiting female mentors and advisors

Gabriella Draney (Managing Director, Tech Wildcatters) recognizes that part of increasing the number of female founders involves connecting them with successful female mentors, advisors and investors that can guide them.

At Tech Wildcatters, she's placing a focus on recruiting women to her mentorship and advisor network such that when the right female founder for her program comes along, she'll be ready.

DFJ Mercury says to look for established accelerators led by females

Aziz Gilani (Director, DFJ Mercury) advised female entrepreneurs to look for accelerator programs that already have women in leading roles or to find programs that have a history of building successful female-led companies.

In other words, the fact that we can do more in this area does not mean that there aren't already programs that are well-suited for female founders.

He suggested entrepreneurs do research and find females who are already involved in your area or beyond, citing TechStars Managing Directors Nicole Glaros in Boulder and Katie Rae in Boston.

How you can make your choice?

When it comes to selecting an accelerator program, ask yourself if its important that there are female managing directors, founders, mentors, or advisors involved. Reach out to previous entrepreneurs to better understand their experience at that particular accelerator, or ask what they've heard about other programs.

Be selective about what city is going to best suit you and your company as a founder, and be willing to travel if it will benefit you. Most importantly, choose somewhere you're comfortable and you trust. After all, this is about helping you be a better founder and build a more successful company.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest interviewer: Dana Rosenberg is the Community Development Lead at HealthTap, where she is in charge of user acquisition and engagement, marketing, PR, and branding. Dana is also the Lead for Women 2.0 Founder Friday Silicon Valley. Prior to moving out west, Dana was a consultant at a boutique healthcare strategy consulting firm in New York, where she advised clients on target screening, acquisition and product commercialization opportunities. Follow her on Twitter at @DanaRosenberg.