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On April 29th, 2016, Zone Startups India launched “empoWer” – India’s 1st accelerator for women entrepreneurs building tech ventures. The accelerator program selected 15 women entrepreneurs from all applications received, and offer them mentoring, workshops, case studies of successful women led startups, industry connect, peer network,  investor connect and over INR 60 Lakhs in cash & professional services as takeaways. 

Program partners included – Department of Science & Technology (Government of India), Vodafone, GIZ (German Donor Agency), Google and Nishith Desai Associates.

The program was launched pan-India, by hosting roadshows in Mumbai, Bangalore and NCR; along with an extended partner network for outreach. Based on the outcomes and success of this pilot initiative, our aim is to run similar short term accelerator programs 2-3 times a year and create a strong pipeline of 50-60 women entrepreneurs and leaders every year.

“empoWer” is looking for Women Entrepreneurs who are building technology enabled ventures, across different sectors. We are not focused on a particular segment. However, the program will not on-board  generic e-commerce or education ventures, unless there is a solid differentiator.

The biggest value-add that “empoWer” is aiming to bring to the fore, is help the selected entrepreneurs build a solid network of mentors, industry experts, partners, investors and peer group; with a firm belief that, having a strong and diverse network helps businesses grow in different ways.

The program received positive feedback from its participants. “The last six weeks have been great. I’ve done an MBA. The empoWer program is an MBA for startups”, says Saumya Vardhan, Founder & CEO, ShubhPuja.com.

Bhargavi S, Co-Founder, FinMitra added “Through program far exceeded my expectations.  The quality of mentors has been amazing, as well as the session content. I’ve never worked out of a program like this, and never knew what I was missing – so many great people and connections and  information”.

The program saw huge success immediately in its cohort as well with YourDost raising its second round in the middle of cohort to Advenio going on to winning Start Tel Aviv Start Tel Aviv Contest.

Program Takeaways:

  • 3 women entrepreneurs get equity-free seed funding of INR 10 Lakhs, INR 7 Lakhs and INR 5 Lakhs from sponsor partners.
  • GIZ jury selected 3 entrepreneurs get equivalent to INR 21 Lakhs worth of services from professional organizations of their choice
  • 3 months equity free acceleration at Zone Startups India for all program participants, valued at INR 75 Lakhs.
  • 1 jury’s choice winner gets a 1-week, all expenses paid soft-landing at DMZ, Toronto – North America’s #1 business incubator
  • Branding and design identity package worth INR 5 Lakhs for 1 woman entrepreneur from DCCPER.