Google Accelerator hopes to solve the unique problems of women entrepreneurs

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Google Accelerator hopes to solve the unique problems of women entrepreneurs
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  • Paul Ravindranath, the head of Google Accelerator in India, says that the challenges that women entrepreneurs face go beyond funding.
  • The Google Accelerator programme intends to help entrepreneurs with hiring in addition to aiding with team structure, team position and culture.
  • The ideas for startups by women entrepreneurs across tier 1, 2 and 3 cities include healthcare startups, PCOS, farm productivity, agritechs that are digital first, says Ravindranath.
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In spite of success stories of women-led startups like Nykaa, The Good Glamm group, MobiKwik and more, India still has few women entrepreneurs – as they face unique challenges, which their male counterparts are not subjected to.

The proof of this lies in the funding numbers. According to a YourStory report, $66.76 billion was raised by startups in the 2018-22 period. Of this, only 6% flowed to startups with female co-founders; and for solo founders, the slice is wafer thin at 0.78%.

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According to Paul Ravindranath, the head of Google Accelerator in India who has been supporting startups for seven years now, the challenges that women face go beyond funding.

“We did a survey amongst the applicants for our accelerators and 48% of women founders said they need a strong mentor to guide them. They are looking for a community that supports funders and a hero story that they can follow,” he told Business Insider India in an interview.
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Ravindranath says that the number of women applicants to the programme when it started in 2015-16 was 10% of the lot and now it’s at 30-35%. This year, they’re launching a dedicated programme for women.

Google for Startups Accelerator - India Women Founders is a three-month mentorship programme that will support stage-agnostic founders and offer support across technology, user experience, marketing and leadership.

“The idea is to reduce friction and solve problems that are unique to women founders,” he says. For this year, the programme has already received over 300 applications of which they will select 20 who will go through the programme. After its completion, a demo day which is akin to a graduation ceremony where they can meet investors among others. .

A lot of the ideas that come from women entrepreneurs across tier 1, 2 and 3 cities include healthcare startups, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and farm productivity. “There are also a lot of ideas around agritech space that are digital first,” said Ravindranath.

Most of these founders are either from corporate or engineering backgrounds, between the age group of mid-20s to late 30s, and wanting to solve a problem in a big way.
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Women founders ecosystem

The founder of VC firm Kalaari Capital, Vani Kola started a programme called CXXO, for which she had earmarked $10 million per annum to invest in startups with female founders. This is in addition to providing them with coaching by f emale trailblazers like Zilingo co-founder Ankiti Bose; and Microsoft country head of VC and PE Partnerships Lathika Pai and more.

In May this year, the Israel em bassy collaborated with IIT Delhi and Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE) Foundation to provide a six-week mentorship programme for women founders.

Apart from upskilling and helping them scale up their ideas, the common point for all the programmes is building a network of peers. One of the founders that Google had mentored is Naiyya Saggi, who founded BabyChakra that was later acquired by The Good Glamm Group.

Now, Saggi is a unicorn co-founder and a regular contributor to many such forums and Ravidranath says that she has come full circle – she took her idea to turn it into a unicorn and is now guiding others to achieve the same.
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“It’s an under-represented group and more should show the way,” he says.

The right inputs

In addition to community support, most women founders lack the right input at the right time. The trouble with women founders starts right at the beginning. “When we asked the female alumni what kept them from applying a year earlier because they were ready, they said they were not ready. This is not true with male founders who start even when they have unfinished projects and hope for the best,” said Ravindranath.

Women founders tend to make sure they can invest themselves fully and are highly conscious of the resources available to them, before they sign on to entrepreneurship. Women also find it tough to hire co-founders or team members or a tech team and tend to outsource the tech part to an agency.

In fact a lot of ideas fail at the tech stage, and the programme intends to build a good foundation before they take it to the funding stage.
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Google Accelerator programme intends to help women entrepreneurs with hiring in addition to aiding with team structure, team position and culture. It also intends to help them pitch better, provide them with pitching strategies and convert their ideas into investable businesses.

Ravindranath calls it “a slow-burn process which has to be done” considering only 15% of all entrepreneurs are women.

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