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A new accelerator for women-led startups aims to tackle the gender imbalance in London’s tech sector and promote businesses with a social purpose.
The main drivers of the accelerator, called We in Social Tech, are the difficulty that female founders of startups have in securing funding, and the lack of women in tech generally.
Only 7% of people working in the tech industry across Europe are women, and only 4% of venture capital investment in the sector goes to companies started by women, according to Ghislaine Boddington, a spokeswoman for the accelerator.
“This under-representation of women in technology companies has a knock-on effect,” said Richard Salmon, regional director of Nwes, the business support organisation that is delivering the programme. “Female-led businesses are less likely to raise investment compared to male-led tech businesses, and so there are also fewer female role models within tech companies. This becomes a self-perpetuating situation.”
For girls and young women, having role models in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers can provide a vital confidence boost, potentially pushing them towards a sector not traditionally seen as for women.
We in Social Tech will support the growth of 60 businesses over the next 18 months through bespoke business consultancy packages that include access to industry mentors, who will be matched to the startups based on individual needs, and free co-working space.
Startups will also be given access to potential investors and Nwes has said it will not claim any intellectual property or equity.
“It’s not easy to build a sustainable business that delivers user, social and financial value,” said Boddington. “But the aim is to encourage sustainable business models based on ethical frameworks with social purpose and profitability. It will inherently re-examine how we define success.”
At the heart of We in Social Tech’s mission is an emphasis on different kinds of value, said Boddington.
“We came to a realisation that the word ‘value’ had seemingly become attached only to an economic interpretation,” she said. “Our debate then was about how to reintegrate ethics into our businesses when every time we used the word ‘value’ to politicians, investors and others, it was instantly translated into meaning financial returns.
“The aim must be to amplify and move forward together in positive actions until it becomes more natural for us all to act responsibly to our world.”
There is also a financial incentive to invest in social tech as, according to Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer, more consumers, particularly younger people, want to buy from organisations they trust.
The accelerator programme will be funded by Deutsche Bank through its social enterprise programme, and the project itself will be delivered from Wood Green Works, a new workspace for creative industries in Haringey.
The deadline for applying to We in Social Tech’s first cohort is 19 November, and there will be further intakes in February and April next year.