Last week, City Hall in London played host to the inaugural Women Startup Challenge Europe.
10 female led start-ups pitched in front of a panel of tech industry veterans and investors; judges included LastMinute.com founder Martha Lane-Fox, TechStars London MD Max Kelly, CEO of auFeminin.com Marie-Laure Sauty de Chalon, Diane Tate, a Senior Program Manager at Mozilla, and Rajeeb Det, CEO of Learnerby and founder of Enternships.com.
The ten finalists were competing for a cash prize of €50,000 euros, which was ultimately scooped by Simprints, pitched by founder Alexandra Grigore the developers of an affordable biometric scanning device and mobile app, and cloud storage system, using which they hope to provide a fingerprint IDs to the 1.5 billion people worldwide who have no formal way to identify themselves.
The prize was awarded by the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, who sponsored the event; in addition, Simprints will be given the opportunity to undergo one-on-one mentoring sessions with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
The Women Startup Challenge Europe is supported by non-profit organisation Women Who Tech; “This is our first-ever international competition and the response from the tech community has been extraordinary”, commented Allyson Kapin, Women Who Tech’s founder.
“We had more than 200 applications, and our finalists included some of the most innovative women-led startups based in Austria, Finland, France, Ireland, Spain and the UK.”
On the night, Lifebit, a Spanish med-tech startup founded by Dr Maria Chatzou which provides real-time, easy to deploy genomic analysis, received the Audience Choice Award; $120,000 worth of cloud services from IBM.
The remaining 8 finalists each received $10,000 in cloud services. All of the finalists had the opportunity to meet at Mozilla’s London HQ for a networking and mentoring session with investors and startup experts including Paul McNabb of Episode 1, Charles Thiede of Zapnito, Russell Buckley of Kinder Capital, Diane Tate of Mozilla, and Georgia Taylor-Foster of Playfair Capital.
“Supporting women in tech is a big deal, and not just in the U.S.,” commented a spokesperson for primary sponsor Newmark.
“The tech industry worldwide needs more women. We need their perspective and talent. But only 10 percent of global investor money goes to women-led startups, even though women-led companies deliver a 35 percent higher return than those led by men. We’ve got to invest in talent and close this gap.”
This was the fifth Women Startup Challenge to have taken place since June 2015, but the first outside of the US.
The events have seen participation from more than 1,500 women-led startups, with nearly $1m in cash and prizes distributed to date.
Long may it continue.