Marina Andrieu, Executive Director and co-founder of WIDE (Women in Digital Empowerment) shares early updates on the WIDE Startup Leadership program.
(Featured Image: Marina Andrieu is fostering a women tech culture in Luxembourg / Image Credit © Silicon Luxembourg / Olivier Minaire)
Why have you decided to launch this program? What is the current situation for women entrepreneurs in Luxembourg?
Although the startup scene is booming in Luxembourg, there is still a minority of women founders. Interest in our activities, such as entrepreneurship and coding workshops, however, is growing and women clearly tell us that they want to start their own companies.
We have invited many founders to our events and also to our Women Founders Conference with Silicon Luxembourg. Virginie Simon (MyScienceWork) was a speaker at our launch event, and we also hosted Genna Elvin (Tadaweb), Polina Frolova (JobToday) and Alexandra Fernández Ramos (Travelsify), all of whom we have been following since the beginning of their startup adventures.
Launched in June last year, we are happy to share with you some exciting news about the WIDE Startup Leadership program.
Around 50 applications have been received, mainly from Luxembourg but also from Berlin and South America. We got great press coverage and the launch was a real call for ideas from women who have been thinking about launching their own tech startups for several months or even years. The program is supported by the Ministry of Economy, BIL and Finimmo/Fincorp.
“Moving from the idea stage to product creation, which requires the allocation of time and financial resources, is a challenge for many of our applicants. This is where we try to help the most.”
The projects submitted covered various fields. Interestingly enough, we received very similar projects: a few e-commerce projects as well as several platform ideas for finding multilingual services in Luxembourg.
The first step with all the applicants was to refine their business models and do the basic math and desk research: What is the size of my potential market? What resources do I need to make it happen? Applying to the program was also a chance for many to have their first “reality check.” The majority of the applicants did not contact any other entrepreneurship support organization before getting in touch with WIDE, which demonstrates the importance of the program as it creates a necessary point of entry for women in the tech and startup ecosystem.
Our pitching and funding conference (at Microsoft, in partnership with LBAN) in September was a huge success, with potential founders looking for quality information regarding the possibility of getting funding.
Twelve projects have now been selected, including five projects in the fintech sector, and we have decided to focus solely on early-stage projects. We selected the projects based on the potential of the idea of course, but also the founder’s commitment to make it happen. At the moment, most of our founders are focusing on their projects fulltime. We are also offering consulting to several women who are already entrepreneurs and would now like to develop a product based on a technology. Several of our applicants took the leap of faith and resigned from their jobs to work fulltime on their projects and one even decided to do a coding boot camp in order to code her product by herself. She had previously participated in a WIDE coding workshop and found the confidence and support to go for it.
We encourage solo-founders to look for team members and co-founders. Three of the women selected are developers themselves, the rest are currently looking for CTOs to partner with.
“We are looking for solid projects where tech and digital can bring real added value to solving real-life problems. Ideally, we would like to hear from founders within a team (gender balance is encouraged!)”
We are highly flexible and adapt to the projects’ needs. In December, we held a project booster session using Design Thinking methods and, as a result, three projects (with the help of 20 participants and volunteers) were able to come up with a first low-fidelity solution. Several other projects are currently under development. Product and user feedback will definitely keep our founders busy in the first months of 2018. Two companies are in the process of being created and one has signed its first client.
We also started connecting our participants with our team of advisors and experts. We are planning to organize a demo day for partners and investors in May; participants find it motivating to have common deadlines to meet!
We have learned a lot from the launch of the program. We see that many women are still worried about juggling family commitments and that it is clearly the main factor slowing down our applicants. Moving from the idea stage to product creation, which requires the allocation of time and financial resources, is a challenge for many of our applicants. This is where we try to help the most.
We believe that thanks to the program, and also to the other events and activities we organize, every woman who wants to start something in Luxembourg in the digital field has the chance to test her idea and access our community to get support.
We will accept new projects over the course of 2018. We are looking for solid projects where tech and digital can bring real added value to solving real-life problems. Ideally, we would like to hear from founders within a team (gender balance is encouraged!), preferably with an engineer as part of the team.