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Women's Tech Startup Challenge Offers Cash Grants

Women's Startup Challenge
Credit: goodluz/Shutterstock

Women-led tech startups are taking on some of the world's toughest challenges and will compete for funding later this year. Hosted by a nonprofit, this annual competition provides women founders of tech startups with the opportunity to earn a $50,000 cash grant, receive mentoring and present their solution to investors.

Women Who Tech, in conjunction with Craig Newmark Philanthropies, will bring the Eighth Women Startup Challenge to New York City on May 29. The event will highlight 10 of the best "early-stage, women-led startups," who will then pitch their companies at Google in New York City.

According to a recent national poll conducted by Women Who Tech that surveyed 1,000 Americans age 18 and older about the issues they were most concerned about, the five most important issues were healthcare, political instability and government accountability, immigration reform, environmental sustainability and climate change, and economic opportunity.

The same study showed that 60 percent of respondents "agreed that tech is not being leveraged effectively" to address those concerns.

"In our tech-driven economy, we're still tackling incredible obstacles that could be resolved by backing the right creative and innovative minds," said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech. "We're on a mission to provide capital, resources, and mentoring to women-led startups who are fighting for the future and solving these big problems."

During the event, each startup will make their pitch to a group of major tech investors. This year's jury will include Ellie Wheeler, partner at Greycroft; Esther Dyson, executive founder of Wellville; Jen Wolf, partner and COO at Initialized Capital; Jennifer Fielding, managing director of Techstars New York and co-founder of The Fund; Nashilu Mouen-Makoua, an investor at First Round Capital; and Nisha Dua, general partner at BBG Ventures.

At the end of the challenge, winning ventures will receive a $50,000 cash grant and pro bono services. Startups will also take part in an investor mentoring day at Techstars, a major funding accelerator for tech startups.

Along with other startup funding options, like seeking venture capitalists and angel investors, gaining assistance through crowdfunding or obtaining alternative small business loans, companies like Techstars are generally seen as a great way for startups to get off the ground.

Despite the fact that women make up a majority of the American professional workforce, the tech industry is largely populated by men. According to data collected by Women Who Tech, only 28 percent of proprietary software jobs and 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women. Women are executives at only 11 percent of Fortune 500 companies and own just 5 percent of tech startups.

Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies founder Craig Newmark touted the challenge, citing its importance in making the tech industry more inclusive.

"The tech world needs the perspective of more women founders if we're going to tackle some of the biggest challenges impacting us," Newmark said. "This means that a lot more than 2.2 percent of investor money needs to go to women-led startups, and we have an opportunity and an obligation to start setting the record straight, considering how studies show that tech companies led by women have a 35 percent return on investment."

Since its inception in 2008, Women Who Tech has become a major player among global programs that work to showcase and fund women-led tech startups. With events held in New York, Silicon Valley, London and Paris, the group has invested more than $28 million to women-led startups.

The group also touts its ability to fund 84 percent of the startups in its program, as well as the fact that 81 percent of finalists are still in business. Partnerships for the program's startups have been made with major corporations, including Amazon, Sony, Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz.

Applications to participate in the Eighth Women Startup Challenge close at 11:59 p.m. on March 28, 2019. Applicants must be tech startups with at least one woman founder or co-founder from the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada or Mexico. To find out how to apply, or to see whether your startup meets the criteria, visit the Women Startup Challenge website.

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a BA in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese-American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.