A University of Queensland (UQ) startup program, which to date has assisted founders who have gone on to raise $140 million in funding with more than $3 billion in valuations, has announced the first cohort of an accelerator for majority female-owned early-stage startups.
The UQ Ventures inaugural Ventures Empower Women's Accelerator has awarded six teams including 14 founders with $10,000 in equity-free funding, with startup concepts ranging from decomposable packaging to science education e-learning to cold-brew tea.
Rebecca Wilson, a successful entrepreneur who founded the retirement startup Starts at 60, has joined the program as the entrepreneur in residence and will support, mentor, and guide the founders as they navigate their early-stage startups to market. The accelerator will culminate in a pitch event in November.
"I am genuinely excited to collaborate with the inaugural cohort of Empower, nurturing and fostering this dynamic team of women founders," Wilson said.
"Each of their businesses is poised to tackle exciting areas with significant growth potential.
"The profound influence that The University of Queensland Ventures team and our expansive network of supporters can offer these founders is truly impactful — guiding and supporting them as they shape the businesses of tomorrow."
Program lead Beth Lawrance said it was exciting to have such an innovative and diverse group of founders to kick-start the inaugural program.
“It is a privilege to work with these founders on problems they are passionate about solving and to see their week-on-week growth,” she said.
“The response and support we have received from the broader ecosystem with incredible leaders and founders sharing their expertise with the cohort as guest speakers has been amazing.”
The initiative builds upon UQ Ventures experience in delivering ilab, one of Australia’s most experienced accelerators that the university took over from the Queensland Government in 2012, and LeadHers, a confidence and leadership program for women.
Rocket engine startup Herik Labs won both the Judge's and People's Choice awards at the UQ Ventures annual ilab Accelerator Pitch Night in March, following Eclipse last year which is utilising the expertise of the CSIRO to commercialise a synthetic version of lactoferrin, an immune-boosting protein found in breast milk that is rarely included in baby formula.
Other notable graduates include hearing tech company Audeara (ASX: AUA), deployment automation software group Octopus Deploy, and gut microbiome life sciences company Microba (ASX: MAP). Andrew Barnes, co-founder of Go1, also went through the accelerator with another startup before starting the edtech unicorn to-be.
Meet the Empower Women's Accelerator cohort
OzCeutics – Nature-derived antimicrobials to treat human and animal dermatitis.
- Zyta Ziora
- Conny Turni
- Preeti Pandey
East Forged – Cold-brew tea beverages bringing tea into new social spaces.
- Kym Cooper
- Tania Stacey
La Foundary – Decomposable packaging made from waste materials with the power of mycelium.
- Anh Van
- David Sea
- Hiu Tek (Melody) Wu
- Shikhar Jung Shahi Thakuri
Dialogic Education Services – Online professional learning in science education.
- Dr Charlotte Pezaro
- Natalie McKirdy
Farm Hero – An app connecting farmers with service providers of agricultural equipment in Cambodia.
- Sorkunthika Srour
- Vikram Fidolin Anandharaja
Young Stripes – STEM programs for Kenyan school students addressing educational inequalities.
- Hemanshi Galaiya
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