Women in tech are not only significantly under-funded by venture capitalists, but they also often lack access to the early-stage support granted to their male counterparts.
To enroll in a startup accelerator like Y Combinator, for example, its expected founders relocate to the Bay Area for three months. Women, who are more often caregivers, might not be able to do that, and even if they can, the program may not cater to their specific needs.
Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a relatively new network of female startup founders, has built a free, non-dilutive 5-week accelerator for women by women. Called ‘Ready, Set, Raise,’ its goal is to help more female-founded startups raise VC through workshops, 1-on-1 coaching, legal clinics, communications and speech coaching and more. The accelerator, sponsored by Trilogy Equity Partners, kicked off at the end of August and will culminate with a private demo day with VCs in Seattle on September 27th.
“I don’t know many women who can uproot their families for three months to go live in another city,” FFA founder Leslie Feinzaig told TechCrunch. “When I was working on my company, I wanted to apply to Y Combinator but I was a new mom, it was 100% a non-starter.”
Feinzaig knows the trials and tribulations of raising VC as a female entrepreneur all too well. As the founder of an edtech startup called Venture Kits, she tried, unsuccessfully, to procure venture backing. That struggle is why she started FFA, which began as a Facebook group to connect female founders in the Seattle area but has expanded across North America.
The accelerator is designed to allow founders to tune into the programming remotely. Participants are only required to be on-site in Seattle, where FFA is based, for one week, during which the organization is providing free housing and childcare.
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FFA’s accelerator is among a new class of efforts created for women in tech. All Raise’s Founders For Change initiative, for example, and new female-focused funds, like Sarah Kunst’s Cleo Capital, are all working to close the gender funding gap.
“I know it seems to people like there’s a lot happening around female founders and diverse founders, but in the context of the size and scale of that gender gap, we are barely getting started,” Feinzaig said. “We need all the accelerators. We need hundreds of funds. We are nowhere close to making a real dent in equal leadership.”
Today, FFA is announcing their inaugural class of startups, eight in total. Here’s a closer look at the group: