3 WA businesses receive Boosting Female Founders grants

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Loran and Julie 2020 view health
Lorna Cook and Julie Adams of View Health - chemo@home, who received a grant. Image supplied.

Three female-led Western Australian startups have been announced as second-round recipients of the Federal Government’s Boosting Female Founders co-investment program.

View Health – chemo@home, Origio.farm and the Natural Food Emporium (previously Stocked Foods) collectively received just under $950,000 from the program.

This follows what could be described as a ‘chequered’ history (to put it midly) for the Boosting Female Founders (BFF) grant program. Last year, the first year of the grant, not a single WA female founder was awarded any grant money, from the 51 awardees (and 5 WA applicants that made it to round 2).

Startup WA was drawn to write a letter to the Minister concerned, at the time.

And then last year, in announcing who had gone through to round two, a spectacular administrative error emailed 1,800 round 1 applicants who were not successful into round 2, saying they had been successful. Whoops!

“It is utterly inconceivable that a grant program can be so poorly mismanaged,” noted Dr Josephine Muir of Noisy Guts at the time, a sentiment felt by many.

Now, six months after that episode, the final winners were revealed, leaving many in limbo for half a year.

The program

The Boosting Female Founders Initiative is designed to counter the lack of funding deals towards female-majority-owned and led startups. To be eligible, businesses must be at least 51% female-owned and led.

Bloomberg calculated that in 2021 only 2% of US venture capital went to female founders. Closer to home, Startup WA calculated that 92% of funding deals in 2020 went to male-only founded startups.

This is despite many successful female-led startups from both Western Australia and Australia. Example: the richest person under 40 in Australia is Melanie Perkins of Perth-founded Canva.

Round one (last year) saw $11.8 million go to 51 projects, with round two (this year’s cohort) receiving $11.6 million across 38 projects.

When you consider the success rate for the second round was just 1.52% from over 2,500 applicants, it could be argued that this is the most competitive grant program in the country. Each will receive between $25,000 to $480,000, with the funds used to cover 50% of the cost of a specified project.

$944,107 of round two went to three WA-founded startups, which equates to about 8.12% of the total grants.

The recipients

Origo Farm’s remote weather station. Image supplied.

Annie Brox of Origio.farm said she found the process effective and supportive, adding she is impressed with AusIndustry.

Origio.farm is a leading industrial AgTech Internet of Things (IoT) company received $399,000 from the scheme to expand its farm monitoring products and services into the domestic market.

The Grant is helping us turbocharge our products,

I have to say AusIndustry is top class with their support of new innovations.

Annie Brox, speaking to Startup News

In 2019, the team also received a $375K Accelerating Commercialisation grant from the federal government.

Founded in 2013, View Health – chemo@home received $145,107 for the development and implementation of a technical platform that meets the surging demand for their niche home-based chemotherapy service delivery.

Julie Adams and Lorna Cook and their team of almost 100 staff have had to pivot not just to the pandemic-inflicted changes in the health environment over the past two years but also to the rise of medical consumerism that demands instant digital access.

“The grant will assist in the development and implementation of a very specific technical platform that will improve the ability of the company to respond to the surging demand for chemotherapy (and immunotherapy) to be given at-home,” Ms Adams told Startup News.

“We are grateful that grant opportunities such as this exist to assist female entrepreneurs such as us, to overcome the well-known disadvantages we face in getting access to finance and support to grow start-up companies.”

Lorna Cook

The Natural Food Emporium, Stocked Foods, received a $400,000 grant to establish a mill for Australian Grown Certified Organic Gluten-Free Flours. This will be the first of its kind in Australia.