The Australian startup sector's future depends on our investment in girls & women | Women's Agenda

The Australian startup sector’s future depends on our investment in girls & women

Sarah Moran
Sarah Moran shares the names of just some of the women who are helping the startup scene absolutely thrive in Australia. It’s just the start. We need a bigger push to get girls and young women into tech. Everything from video games to code camps and forming ‘girl gangs’ can help. 

In the startup and tech world we not only have the privilege to think about the future, we have the responsibility to build it.

I reflect back five years to when our Australian startup sector was just getting started and when it was usually woman singular rather than women plural in the room at any tech occasion. The problem was so acute I decided to act

In 2014, with the support of my technical women co-founders, Girl Geek Academy was born. We set out on a mission to bring on 1m women in tech.

There’s been a lot of progress in five years. Today there are many women raising capital and bootstrapping their startups. And women play a pivotal role across our sector, as investors, advisors, role models and holding political positions with innovation responsibilities.

Women like Mina Radhakrishnan, who worked at Uber as their first product manager and shares the patent for Uber’s surge pricing verification system. Now she is here in #StartupAUS, not only building her company Different, but also contributing her knowledge and expertise to the ecosystem.

And we’re seeing startup teams with multiple women working together: like Heidi Holmes and Lucy Lloyd scaling Mentorloop, George McEncroe and Maria La Porta and their amazing team growing Shebah, Jen Fein, Bron Thulke and Caitlin Wynne building YouLi.

Mikaela Jade from Indigital is addressing what’s possible, probable and profitable for First Nations people with mixed reality, drones, and AI. Her Digital Custodians initiative has highlighted the power of Indigenous tech practice alongside over 30 other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from the remote communities of Gibb River, Fitzroy Crossing, Wajul Wajul, Hammond Island, Thursday Island, Bamaga and Olkola.

There are young women coming up the ranks like 23-year-old Annie Flamsteed at iNSPIRE, and women disrupting huge industries, including Dr Jemma Green from Power Ledger,

Anastasia Volkova from FluroSat, Nyree McKenzie from Bidhive, Rachel Riley with Ansarada and Lani te Hennepe with Travelr.

Five years ago, Melanie Perkins raised a $3.6m seed round for her startup Canva – now with a $1 billion valuation.


Startup Muster’s 2018 report recorded a drop in the number of women founding startups – last year, the percentage was 25.4%. This year the number declined to 22.3%.

I now think ahead five years and wonder what #StartupAUS can achieve and what we need to do to get there. Women undoubtedly have a huge role to play. I see an ecosystem where we have gender equality in who is founding, funding and scaling our startups. Experience has taught us this will not happen without conscious creation.

We can do this by improving the balance at a young age, increasing the number of girls in code camps and making sure we provide environments where young girls learn tech alongside other women and with women teachers.

We need girls playing video games and joining eSports teams – girls who play games are 3 times as likely to pursue a STEM career. Let’s get an xBox or Playstation to the top of the Christmas wish list of Australian girls!

We need work experience that exposes girls to their potential future careers, and role models who help them get there.

And most importantly, every woman needs her girl gang. We need to increase the opportunities for women to network, to support each other, to invest in each others success. We need women supporting women and for our male colleagues to support us to do this.

If we do these things, and a little more along the way, I truly believe Australia will be the best place in the world for women to build startup

This opinion piece is from the StartupAUS 2018 Crossroads Report and has been shared here with permission. For a full copy of the report and an overview of the state of play for Australian startups go here. 

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