Boosting Female Founders


7th April, 2020

Introducing The Boosting Female Founders Initiative for startups

The Australian Government has announced a new $18 million program to help fund and launch new startup businesses that are owned and run by women entrepreneurs.

In a plan that will run for the next three years, the objective of The Boosting Female Founders Initiative is to help female-led businesses overcome the inherent disadvantages they face in their chosen industry.

It has also been designed to enable female founders to expand into domestic and international markets and become self-sufficient.

The initiative will be offering funding grants worth between $25,000 and $480,000 with the first round of grants closing on 14 April 2020.

Jessica Janson, founder of tech startup Dogshare, sees the initiative as a positive step forward, despite not being able to apply for the grant this time around due to the timing of the application deadline.

“Traditionally, women miss out on funding and it’s my belief that a lot of this has to do with what has come before us,” said Janson.

READ: Additional grants to support SMEs and startups

“For many of us, selling yourself is not something that comes naturally, but we’re often competing for angel investment or seed funding against others who promise to ‘change the face of XY industry forever’.”

What are the intended outcomes of the initiative?

In addition to boosting the economy through diversity of startups, the most obvious outcomes are an increased number of startups and financial investments founded by women, new products and services brought to market and increased economic growth.

Janson agreed that this kind of impact upon the tech industry is crucial, now more than ever.

“All industries can benefit from an equal representation of founders and leaders.

“Technology enabled business, in particular, needs female founders to encourage today’s girls to get excited about STEM,” she said.

“These are such important skill sets for a modern world and I fear that if girls don’t see enough female leaders in these roles they will be less likely to get involved with this imperative modern day skill.”

Is my startup eligible?

To be eligible you must:

  • be a female-founded (majority owned and led by women) startup
  • have an Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • be registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • be one of the following entities:
    • an entity incorporated in Australia
    • an incorporated trustee on behalf of a trust
    • an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006
    • a partnership
    • a sole trader
  • show evidence that your startup is a female founded (majority owned and led by women. See section 14 of the grant opportunity guidelines for further information on the definition of a female-founded business)
  • provide evidence to support your source of funding (such as, a letter from contributor/s confirming funding amount) (Stage Two applications only)
  • provide evidence from your board (or chief executive officer or equivalent if there is no board) that the project is supported, and that you can complete the project and meet the costs of the project not covered by grant funding (like ineligible expenditure see Appendix B of the grant opportunity guidelines) (Stage Two applications only)

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In the future, Janson says grants such as these will become less common as business moves towards a more equal footing.

“Right now we’re working to level the playing field and because that playing field has been dominated by men in the hundreds of years behind us, as it becomes more common to see women in leadership roles and at the helm of businesses, it will become the new normal,” said Janson.

Nevertheless, the combination of strict submission timelines and the COVID-19 lockdown has created a situation whereby Janson worries these grants may favour businesses that are already ahead of the pack.

“The major difficulty with this first grant round is that it was announced with one month before EOI closing date and requires the applicant to have already secured 50 percent of their total project budget as part of this matched funding.

“For example, if your project has a total value of $100,000 you would need to already have $50,000 in the bank at the time of the EOI date. This money is effectively then ‘on hold’ until the earliest start date of your project in November,” explained Janson.

For a startup struggling to maintain cash flow under lockdown, this could be an untenable situation.

“In this climate, it would be incredibly difficult for many startups to raise money and then an even bigger ask to put that money aside for up to eight months until your project can commence.

“It really favours businesses that are already in a strong financial position.

“Nevertheless, it’s wonderful to see the Australian Government backing female-led enterprise and hopefully for future rounds they’ll provide startups with plenty of notice to enable them to raise any required matched funding,” said Janson.

To apply for the program and first round of grants, please visit the Australian Government for Business website.