After a successful launch of empoWer last year, earlier this September, Mumbai based Zone Startups India announced empoWer 2017 in partnership with Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), Social Alpha (an initiative by Tata Trusts), Microsoft, Amazon Launchpad, ICICI Bank, PayU, CapitalFirst, Bureu de Quebec and FlexiLoans.
After multi-city roadshows and an online campaign to attract applications, the program received 376 applications – almost double the number of applications received last year.
The empoWer 2017 cohort comprised of startups ranging across technology themes such as IOT, Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning; and industries such as healthcare, smart cities and enterprise solutions.
During the 6-week program, the 15 founders got to interact with over 40 mentors, including industry leaders and subject matter experts; in addition to a few industry visits, such as a meeting with the CEO and Founder of Capital First.
Says Rachana Iyer, Senior Manager – Corporate Social Responsibility & Communications, Capital First “It has been inspiring for Capital First to have engaged so closely with 15 exceptional women entrepreneurs. We really look forward to supporting the winners of the grant funding on providing mentorship, opening up channels for their products and collaborating on using technology to create sustained social impact. Empower has truly been a great program and platform for us to feel the pulse of social innovation in India led by women entrepreneurs.”
7- weeks into the accelerator program, Zone Startups India hosted the empoWer 2017 demo day on 13th December, at the BSE International Convention Centre. The demo day was attended by 150 guests, which included the investor community and large corporates.
The Keynote address at the empoWer demo day was presided by Dr. Anita Gupta, Director and Associate Head Innovation & Entrepreneurship, DST, Govt. of India. Dr. Anita spoke about how Education, Encouragement, and Empowerment can bring about the success of women entrepreneurs.
The keynote address was followed by a high profile panel discussion on whether investing in women entrepreneurs fuels higher financial and social returns. The session had eminent panellists in Varsha Tagare – Managing Director, Qualcomm Ventures, Atin Sharma, Partner, Round Glass Partners, Deepthi Reddy, Head of Investments – Social Alpha and Ritesh Jain, Cofounder – Flexi Loans.
The main highlight of the empoWer demo day was the startup pitches. The quality of startups and the problem that they were solving, surpassed the expectations of everyone in the audience. Each pitch seemingly the best, till the next pitch came up.
Zone Startups India handed out equity-free seed funding of INR 7 Lakhs to the 3 eligible startups, based on multiple evaluation criteria. The respective grantees were Periwinkle Technologies, Tactopus Education, and Revol Inc. The seed funds were supported by Capital First and Department of Science and Technology.
Additionally, Microsoft handed out USD 25K worth of Microsoft Azure credits and go-to market support to TekUncorked and The Friday Code.
Based on the international scalability potential, Bitgram was offered a 1-week bespoke market access trip to Montreal, by Bureau du Quebec.
Lastly, Amazon Launchpad offered its consumer platform to Tactopus and Tapu Sustainable Solutions and a ‘Startup Spotlight’ status to Cashew.
Social Alpha, a Tata Trusts initiative is also considering Periwinkle, Tapu Sustainable Solutions and Tactolpus for their incubation and INR 50 Lakh seed investments. We will be making this announcement soon.
The program received amazing positive feedback from its participants. “EmpoWer, among all initiatives for women entrepreneurs, stands out with its unique program structure. The 6 weeks are planned and organized to make the maximum out of the 2 days/week spent by the entrepreneurs. says Sivareena S.L, Founder, PregBuddy
Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India, says “Over the past 2 years, we have seen some outstanding startups led by women founders, and it is unfortunate that the program is best fit for a 15 member cohort. It has made us re-think our approach, and this year onwards empoWer has morphed into a year-long initiative, wherein the accelerator will be one of the pillars of the program. In addition to the accelerator, empoWer will now have a bootcamp program, and a structured community engagement program for women entrepreneurs, which will help them in scaling their business through pre-planned half-yearly workshops and community support. Looking forward to more exciting stuff in 2018”.