Sequoia Capital India, one of the biggest investors in India’s startup ecosystem has recently launched an entrepreneurship programme called Sequoia Spark for women entrepreneurs belonging to countries India and Southeast Asia.
India is the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem but surprisingly ranks 70th out of a list of 77 countries in the female entrepreneurship index according to the IWWAGE report. The report also says only 7 out of 100 entrepreneurs in India are women with nearly half of them get into business out of necessity than aspiration.
To encourage entrepreneurship spirit in women, Sequoia has launched its entrepreneurship programme considering the hindrances an Indian woman faces for beginning her startup or business.
Let us deep dive more into Sequoia’s fellowship programme.
What is Sequoia Spark Fellowship Programme?
Women entrepreneurs under Sequoia Spark Fellowship will offer a $1,00,000 yearly grant to 15 women entrepreneurs from India and Southeast Asia. In return for the grant Sequoia will not seek any stake or ownership in the startup. Those startups that are at the pre-launch stage or pre-product-market-fit stage are eligible for this programme. The selected entrepreneurs will receive one-on-one mentorship for one year with a senior Sequoia India investment advisor.
How will Sequoia Spark Fellowship benefit women entrepreneurs?
According to EdelGive Foundation, businesses owned by women in India can grow upto 90 percent in the coming 5 years provided there are adequate government schemes supporting women entrepreneurship. The $1,00,000 grant offered by Sequoia will act as priming for startups as according to IFC (International Finance Corporation) report, 70 percent of the women entrepreneur’s finance requirements are unmet. Such programmes will give greater access to knowledge, network, mentorship, and capital to women entrepreneurs, therefore, creating a conducive environment for women-led businesses to thrive.
According to IWWAGE report only 7 out of 100 entrepreneurs in India are women with nearly half of them get into business out of necessity than aspiration.
What does Sequoia Spark Fellowship Entail?
Upon selection, the entrepreneurs will be mentored by Sequoia India specialists on a 1:1 interaction basis on diverse domains of marketing, product, technology, hiring, etc. The duration of the mentorship programme is of 12 months where entrepreneurs will also receive guidance on improving the product and business model. At the end of 12 months, participants can stay connected to the Sequoia Spark network to attend events, and benefit from peer learning.
The Spark fellowship programme will consist of below sessions and events:
Spark Talks: Conducting monthly series of webinars with inspiring women in leadership roles across the globe.
Spark Studios: Women entrepreneurs will have small-group sessions with Sequoia India specialists who will offer practical advice across hiring, legal, finance, product, technology, finance, and marketing.
Spark Coffee Chats: Team members of Sequoia India and Southeast Asia investment advisory will spend over 250 hours per year for one-on-one ‘coffee chat’ sessions with female founders on crucial business issues. These sessions will be conducted over Zoom.
Application process for the fellowship
The interested participants need to fill up a form that will take approximately 20 min to complete. The first Spark Fellowship program launches in November 2021. The last date of submitting applications is 15 September 2021.
What lies ahead for the women entrepreneurial community with such programmes?
In the current times of the pandemic, where MSMEs and start-ups are already reeling under lack of funds and revenues, nurturing the environment for female entrepreneurship is the need of the hour. According to the joint report of Google and Bain &Company, female entrepreneurship has the potential to create 150-170 million jobs in India by 2030 if more supportive schemes are launched.