By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0) You know the adage “two guys in a garage”? Well, not anymore -- there are a new crop of accelerators, incubators and programs aimed at creating diverse and remarkably innovative startups.
Thanks to this new trend in the startup industrial complex, “accelerators are offering the guidance to men and women, but the women are taking advantage of that and that's made a big difference -- particularly for women," said Francine Sommer with Village Ventures in a DigiDay panel discussion earlier this year. Y Combinator, a prominent startup incubator in San Francisco, has a proportion of women in the program that has “remained relatively constant over the years at 4%," according to founding partner Jessica Livingston. Word on the street is that Y Combinator heavily favors applicants with a technical co-founder, while other accelerator and incubator programs that do not maintain that expectation have been successful in creating more women entrepreneurs.
Allyson Kaplin of Women Who Tech tweeted/demurred yesterday, "I heard them talk about a lack of women applicants. But part of it is a networking/recruiting issue".
There are incubator programs that do admit and educate higher rates of female entrepreneurs. Take for example Founder Labs, a pre-incubator program that sees a 50/50 gender split in their classes, thanks in part to a close partnership with Women 2.0.
There is also the global Founder Institute network, an idea-stage incubator and a network for early-stage entrepreneurs, offers women a special fellowship program.
Founder Institute Reaches Out to Aspiring Female Founders with Fellowships In February, 16% of the Founder Institute's over 300 graduate companies had female founders. The Founder Institute then began a program named the Female Founder Fellowship, in an effort to double the number of women graduating from the program, and ultimately graduate 175 female-led companies a year. As a result, they saw a 30% increase in female graduates in just a few months, and have graduated nearly 100 female founders.
Encouraged by the increasing number of women entrepreneurs launching tech companies in their part-time incubator program, the Founder Institute is reinstating the Female Founder Fellowship for their Fall 2011 semester programs globally. Women interested in launching a startup should check out the Female Founder Fellowship offered by the Founder Institute, where the best female applicants in each city have their course fee subsidized. The first 100 to apply to the Founder Institute can do so free of charge here.
Female founders with notable startups that have emerged from the Founder Institute program include Rebecca Woodcock (Cake Health), Maria Ly (Skimble), Steffany Boldrini (Ecobold), Adrianna Herrera (Fashioning Change), Emily Marshall (SnuggleCloud) and Catherine Bicknell (Kindara).
Change The Ratio -- More Mentors and Role Models Needed
The tech industry not only needs more women entrepreneurs -- we need more women role models and mentors. Being a mentor is good for your career so give back!
Despite active recruitment, only 10% of 650+ mentors at the Founder Institute are female.
Experienced female founders and CEOs are strongly encouraged by the Founder Institute to apply to be a mentor to early-stage entrepreneurs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Angie Chang co-founded Women 2.0 in 2006 with Shaherose Charania. She currently serves as Editor-In-Chief of Women 2.0 and is working to mainstream women in entrepreneurship. Previously, Angie held roles in product management, web UI design, and entrepreneurship. In 2008, Angie launched Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners, asking that guys come as the "+1" for once. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.