DreamIt Ventures is launching a new program to get more women founders into its accelerator.
It’s called DreamIt Athena and it’s backed by a state grant of more than $490,000. It will launch in the spring of 2015 in Philadelphia.
The program is a way for DreamIt Ventures to figure out how to tackle the gender inequality problem in tech, said DreamIt’s Karen Griffith Gryga.
“There’s so much talk in the press about this issue, and there’s a lot of theories,” Gryga said. “But there isn’t a lot of answers.”
With DreamIt Athena, DreamIt Ventures will offer special resources, like mentoring from women founders, introductions to female investors and possibly a voice-coaching class (here’s why), and see which ones are effective in helping female founders succeed.
Bringing in female mentors will be key, Gryga said.
Gryga did an informal poll of female DreamIt founders and said they told her, “Bring me female mentors and advisors and people I can look up to as people that have been there.”
In the past, DreamIt never filtered for gender when it came to searching for mentors. It was all domain-specific, she said. With DreamIt Athena, that will change.
Archna Sahay, who launched the Female Founder Network earlier this year, will run operations for DreamIt Athena. She recently left her job as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.
DreamIt Athena is another program from DreamIt Ventures that aims to break the mold of the white male founder. The accelerator launched DreamIt Access, a minority entrepreneurship program backed by Comcast Ventures, in 2011. That program will continue to run in 2015.
The state funding for DreamIt Athena is for two cycles of the program, but Gryga said DreamIt hopes to find a corporate partner to sponsor DreamIt Athena going forward.
The program will accept, at minimum, four women-led startups, though that number could go up, based on which startups are qualified. (This DreamIt Philly cycle has four women-led startups, the most ever for the Philly classes of the accelerator.)
Gryga said she hopes DreamIt Athena will also “put Philly on the map as a place that is a female founder region.”
And, as a piece of context: West Coast accelerator Y Combinator released data on their founder breakdown last summer. 20 percent of Y Combinator startups were led by women.-30-