Startmate launches Ladymates to address pipeline of female founders


Some 60% of founders in Startmate’s latest accelerator cohort are women, and 45% of cohorts have been female in the last 5 years. The company is now launching a new initiative it is calling Ladymates.

Michael Batko, the CEO of Australian startup accelerator Startmate which has invested in 230 startups, is speaking out on the inequity in VC funding in Australia.

“The industry standard of 18% of VC funding going to women co-founded startups is appalling,” Batko says. “The excuses are wide-ranging because it is hard to fix a broken system and nobody wants to start all the way at the beginning of the funnel.”

Batko tells Forbes Australia he is committed to widening the funnel to include more women in entrepreneurship and tip the scales toward equal gender representation in the ANZ startup sector. Startmates released a whitepaper this week, detailing the problem, and setting out its solution.

“The most gender-diverse companies are 48% more likely to outperform the least gender-diverse companies. Yet, in Australia, women make up only 26% of the tech workforce, with dwindling numbers for women in leadership roles. Globally, only 15% of founders are women and in Australia, only 18% of VC funding goes to women co-founded startups,” Batko says.

Startmate, which achieved 60% of women co-founded startups in its latest accelerator cohort, is announcing Ladymates, an initiative it says ‘exists to systematically break down the barriers women currently face on their career path.’

“We now have a track record of backing 45% of women co-founded startups over the last 5 years. And that is only the beginning,” the whitepaper states.

“Ladymates is the full extension to support women at every stage of their career from their first job, founding, within a startup, motherhood, all the way to leadership support in their C-level careers.”

The origin of the term Ladymates is from female members of the Startmate team who would gather and share personal and professional challenges. The get-togethers become a monthly event, that the female Startmate team members nicknamed a gathering of the ‘Ladymates.’

Ladymates strategy leads Kelly Spoerk and Holly Brooks. Image: Startmate.

“There are countless hurdles to overcome on the founding journey many of which result in wasted potential and unrealised dreams,” the website states. “From investor bias during fundraising to customer belief. We want to give female founders a tight-knit network of role models, peers, and mentors who have faced the same challenges with actionable solutions and support to set you up for success.”

The new initiative provides resources for students, partners and founders to access coaching and leadership. Kelly Spoerk is the head of projects and community at Startmate.

“Gender diversity isn’t just about ‘feeling good’. It’s not just a nice-to-have. Gender diversity is essential for success and will be a core driver of solving the world’s largest problems,” Spoerk says.

“If we truly want to solve the world’s biggest challenges, then we need the most brilliant people coming together – through full representation of our population.”

Michael Batko

Holly Brooks is the senior marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand. She sees opportunity in bringing more women into the startup fold.

“Australia and New Zealand are full of courageous, clever, and deeply caring women who are hungry to create a better future, and there’s nothing we won’t do to ensure they get the opportunity,” says Brooks.

Startmate also offers a $3,000 8-week fellowship for women outlining the opportunities in tech, transferability of skills and confidence building. The website states that scholarships are available for the fellowship.

“If we truly want to solve the world’s biggest challenges, then we need the most brilliant people coming together – through full representation of our population,” says Batko.

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