Wendy Simpson OAM, chairman of Springboard Enterprises Australia.
Eight businesswomen are set to join the inaugural Australian version of Springboard, a professional development program for women entrepreneurs that has operated in the US since 1999.
The chairman of Springboard Enterprises Australia, Wendy Simpson, says she was inspired by what Springboard’s success in the US at coaching women in business and connecting them with investors.
“I had a rare form of cancer and I had time to think in hospital about what I wanted to do when I got out of hospital,” Simpson told attendees at a lunch hosted by Westpac on Monday. “That’s what Springboard is to me - it’s a higher calling.”
When Springboard started in the US, women were not taken seriously in the Silicon Valley start-up scene. Founder and chairman Kay Koplovitz and her colleagues were determined to change that and in the first year of the program 22 of the 26 participants attracted funding.
“It wasn’t that women weren’t being rejected, it was that women weren’t connected,” Koplovitz says. “That’s why we had to start Springboard and why we had to get this off the ground.”
Springboard was not looking to expand but Simpson met Koplovitz and convinced her to bring the program to Australia. Simpson also gained the support of Westpac’s investment banking arm.
Applicants for Springboard Australia went through a two-stage telephone panel interview to winnow the field down from 56 formal applications to the final eight. On Tuesday the finalists will attend a “boot camp” with coaching from venture capitalists and angel investors on how to pitch their companies and how much money to ask for. Each CEO will leave the day with a personal advisory board of business coaches.
The names of the companies will be revealed at 6pm on Tuesday after they complete the day of training. Simpson told BRW there are four participants from Sydney, three from Melbourne and one from Brisbane, with businesses spanning sectors such as biotechnology, clean technology, cloud-based software and mobile apps for retail.
Half a dozen venture capitalists and angel investors are visiting from the US to participate in the program and many of them say they are interested in investing in Australian start-ups.
However, Springboard alumni are not guaranteed funding - the program’s focus is on coaching and networking.