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How can WA female founders win a BFF grant?

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Charlie Gunningham
Boosting Female Founders
// // 158 WA women applied for Boosting Female Founders grant last year. NONE won any funding. Round 2 is now open.

A couple of years ago, with much fanfare, the federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (since renamed to ‘Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’) announced a new grant to help assist female founders, and allocated some fresh funds over three years ($50M+).

Called ‘Boosting Female Founders’, it held information sessions in every capital city including Perth, and some regional areas, and duly opened its applications some months later.

Overall, across the country last year, more than 2,200 applications were submitted at the Expressions of Interest (EOI) stage, 158 from WA (~7%).

124 of the EOI applicants (around 5.6%) were then invited to submit a full application. Of the 158, only 5 WA female founders made the cut. Or 3%.

So, given these raw figures, one might conclude that the WA applicants were about half as competitive as the overall nationwide submissions. WA was responsible for 7% of all EOIs, but only 3% of the final submissions.

But things got worse when the actual grants were announced.

None of the 5 WA female founders won a grant. 51 won grants in total, but none west of the Nullabor…

Allocation of Boosting Female Founder Grants, Round 1, 2020

How can WA female founders win a BFF grant?
Source: DISER, Startup WA

Nothing for Tasmania or the NT either. In fact, more than half the total allocation went to NSW, and 95% of total BFF grants went to NSW, Vic and Qld. Apparently, female founders in those 3 States were more deserving, more competitive, or something?

In a letter to Minister Andrews – which Startup News has seen – Startup WA Tom Goerke asked…

We note that there were no successful recipients for the first round of the Boosting Female Founders from Western Australia with the majority of the allocation going to NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

We write to you to ask for your assistance in helping StartupWA understand what we can do to improve the potential for Western Australian startups being successful. This includes understanding why there were no successful WA recipients and ways we can work with the department to improve the result for our State in the second round.

Tom Goerke, StartupWA Chair

The letter was sent on 10 March, and 9 days later the Minister had Debra Robertson, Manager for Innovation, Digital and Space Programs reply on her behalf. Again, Startup News saw the letter.

As well as mentioning that it was a “highly competitive process” and repeating some of the application guidelines, there was mention of a webinar to help applicants (which is already on our Events Calendar and happens this week). Other than that, no detail as to why none of the WA applicants got a look in.

Just on the raw numbers – and I refuse to believe WA female founders are any worse at writing applications than their eastern states counterparts – WA should have won 5 grants (by population, 10%) or perhaps 3 (we’d put in 7% of all applications) or at least 1 or 2 (being 3% of final submissions).

But WA got nothing. Nada. Not a dicky bird.

In response, Startup WA has put on an info session the day before the webinar, which is 5.30pm this Tuesday. WA’s “Grant Whisperer” Anne Furey will deliver the 1.5-hr workshop at Spacecubed’s Flux venue.

Anyone thinking of applying for BFF Round 2 this year is highly advised to attend the info session and the webinar.

Let’s get some WA female founders some grants this year!

Applications for BFF are due in 22 April 5pm AEST. More info here.


Disclosure: from 2017-2020, the author used to work for DISER, but had nothing to do with the BFF grant.

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Picture of Charlie Gunningham

Charlie Gunningham

Former co-founder, GM, CEO Business News and Accelerating Commercialisation adviser. Charlie has spent 20+ years in Perth's startup scene, as founder, mentor, adviser, writer and investor. There's nothing he likes more than helping early stage tech startups ... and drinking coffee, shiraz or playing in a blues band. Email Charlie here.
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