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Female Founders Competition Launches With £175k Prize Pot for NI Start–Ups

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Women–led start–ups across Northern Ireland are being invited to put themselves forward for the latest Female Founders grant competition delivered by Women in Business in partnership with Techstart Ventures.

Now in its third year, the 2024 Female Founders grant competition opens to applicants on 4th March with a £175,000 prize pot that will be divided equally between five deserving winners. The funding is provided by Techstart Ventures, and the successful applicants will also receive a business mentor through the Women in Business mentoring programme.

The female–focused initiative welcomes novel business ideas from across the broad spectrum of Northern Ireland’s business community, with previous prize–winning ideas ranging from MedTech to VR to AI.

Applicants have until the 30th April deadline to enter their business start–ups, with a round of pitching expected to produce a shortlist of winners between 20th and 22nd May who will then be invited to the Women in Business All–Island Entrepreneurs Conference taking place 6th June. 

Since launching the Female Founders grant fund in 2022, Women in Business and Techstart Ventures have supported the development of 12 women–led companies with vital funds to propel their business forward. Of these winners, Techstart Ventures has provided a significant amount of equity investment into four of these companies, backing the ambitious female founders to continue to build out their business idea and fuel early growth.

One of these companies is Comply First, whose co–founder Fiona Jelly commented: “The female founders grant allowed us to leave our jobs with no fear because we had that bit of gas in the tank to keep us going. I can’t thank Techstart Ventures and Women in Business enough. It was an amazing experience and literally kickstarted me on my journey and gave me the confidence to start a business.” Fiona’s relationship with Techstart Ventures initiated due to the competition and their relationship continued to develop with Techstart Ventures becoming the first investor into the company in 2022.

Kathleen Garrett, who heads–up the Grant Fund within Techstart Ventures, stated: “We are delighted to be running this Female Founders Grant Competition for a third consecutive year, in partnership with Women in Business. We hope that through this targeted competition we can inspire and encourage females throughout Northern Ireland who are at the earliest stage of their business journey and help them accelerate with financial support and mentoring. We are really looking forward to receiving this year’s applications.”

Lorraine Acheson, Managing Director at Women in Business, added: “The appetite we’re seeing within Northern Ireland’s enterprise economy is palpable. Recent data from R3 has shown the number of firms set up here surpassed 2,000 in January – a rise of almost 200% in the space of a year.”

“Our ongoing partnership with Techstart Ventures helps ensure women–led businesses are part of that conversation. The Female Founders fund is a real incubator for women entrepreneurship enabling talented individuals to accelerate their new business ideas and positively contribute to the local economy. Together we are accelerating the next generation of women–led start–ups and I look forward to seeing the innovative ideas in this year’s applications.”

Notes to Editors:

For more information, please contact Michael Briers at mbriers@aikenpr.com

About Women in Business

Women in Business is part of The WiB Group, an umbrella group of social enterprises that are dedicated to helping create a prosperous and inclusive economy in Northern Ireland. Through the Women in Business Network, Diversity Mark, Centre of Learning and Timely Careers, the WiB Group is committed to driving positive change through networking, accreditation, skills development and employment opportunities. It is the WiB Group’s mission to help create a prosperous and inclusive economy, where the collective power of everyone’s contributions propels Northern Ireland towards a brighter, more equitable future for all.

About Techstart Ventures

Techstart Ventures LLP is a venture capital fund manager operating in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Techstart provides support for early–stage technology businesses and university spin–outs through £50m of equity funds, and a £4.5m proof of concept grant fund. As part of its Access to Finance strategy, Invest NI is a Limited Partner in the Northern Ireland equity funds, funder of the proof of concept grant fund, and is part–funded by ERDF under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014–2020.

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