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The next step for startups: empowering female founders

This article was translated from our Spanish edition.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Mexico is becoming a key country for the development of new startups that help address the current needs of people inside and outside the country. This year we have seen how the first unicorns in the country have grown and begun to shine, which also opens the way to other ventures.

According to data from Crunchbase, there are almost 600 Mexican startups, but this is where we find a gap that must be filled: only 16% percent of them have female founders. The gender gap in labor issues is reflected again in the business world. According to data from Endeavor Intelligence, only 25% of tech startups in the region are run by women , and these firms are on average three times smaller than those run by men. This raises an alert to us that it is essential to create more opportunities to encourage companies founded by women to achieve the same growth.

Startups are a fundamental part of the country’s economic recovery. In fact, the OECD indicates that these types of businesses are becoming the drivers of economic growth, since they are key in achieving innovation within local economies and in creating jobs. Seeing this encouraging outlook, it is impossible not to wonder what is happening then with startups led by women. What I have seen in my role leading the Google accelerator in Latin America, is that women’s startups advance a little slower than those founded by men. This is due to several factors, but above all because there are very few programs in which they can participate. Many of the existing boost programs limit participation to those businesses that are in very advanced stages of growth. Most of the women’s startups are not at these growth levels, so they are left behind in a limbo in which they are no longer small startups, but at the same time they cannot meet the requirements to participate in advanced programs. In the same way, the funds they receive are also smaller and the vast majority obtain them from their own savings, or through family or friends.

However, in my experience working with this type of undertaking, I have found solid business plans, innovative ideas and an impeccable way of working, which makes me come to the conclusion that the gap that must be filled is in the support that is given to them. More quality programs with content and tools are required for women entrepreneurs.

This year, at Google we launched the first edition of the Google for Startups Women Founders Community, specialized in being a training and acceleration ground for startups led by early-stage women. The vision of the program is to empower women by bringing the best of Google, our people, technology, and best practices, to reach their full potential. In this first edition we had 15 startups from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico and we worked with the strategic organizations Endeavor, Laboratoria and Co-Madre. The result was very successful and we received many more applications than we imagined, so we are betting on making it a recurring program that can reach more business.

In addition to this program, on October 4, we launched the LAC Women Founders Accelerator in collaboration with WeXchange of the BID Lab and with the support of Centraal, the entrepreneurship hub in Mexico City. The acceleration program for women’s startups in Latin America and the Caribbean consists of 10 weeks in which the best practices of the Google acceleration program are followed, including access to a network of world-class mentors and technical content. We receive more than 300 registrations from across the region and we will work with 20 startups from 9 countries in 11 different industries.

The learning is clear, as we drive more businesses created by women, the ecosystem grows, jobs increase and the economy strengthens. What we need is to know what the needs of this type of business are to create programs dedicated to them and that really have useful content that helps in their growth. It is these initiatives that have managed to break gender barriers in society and those that have allowed us to see a universe of possibilities related to technology and well-being.

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