Today, only 5.7% of startups in Asia Pacific have women founders — a percentage that has remained stagnant over the last five years. And while start-up costs and regulations impact all founders, they tend to affect women more due to gendered stereotypes. Even as AI technologies rapidly evolve, women remain underrepresented in AI research and development, which unfortunately means AI algorithms tend to have biases towards men. If we want an inclusive AI-driven future for everyone, women need to play an active role in the AI revolution.
To help level the playing field for women startup founders — who will go on to build more equitable AI products for the world — Google for Startups is launching a new fund for women-founded AI startups in Asia Pacific.
The Google for Startups Women Founders Fund will provide an equity-free cash award of $100,000 each to six startups from India, Japan and Korea. These are countries where we’ve seen a growing number of women-founded AI businesses through our programs in Google for Startups Campuses in Japan and Korea, and through Startup School in India — a program that mentored over 14,000 aspiring entrepreneurs in 2022.
The Google for Startups Women Founders Fund is the latest offering in our growing portfolio of Google for Startups Founders Funds, which have since 2020 provided more than $30 million to support underrepresented and at-risk founders in Africa, Europe, Brazil and the U.S. To date, more than 400 recipient startups have gone on to raise over $400 million in follow-on venture capital — so we know investing in underrepresented founders is the right way to help them grow their businesses.
Hyemin Lee, founder of Korea-based fintech startup Finda, was able to secure seed and pre-Series A funding to grow her AI-powered digital loans platform after participating in various Google for Startups programs, including Google for Startups Residency in 2016.
“While the investment environment has stabilized for startups, women founders still face biases and limited access to capital,” Hyemin says. “We are often treated with harsher standards and seen as less capable than male counterparts. Women founders continue to need support to build credibility for their ideas and a community of like-minded people to champion one another.”
Mariko Magnan, founder of Japan-based personal concierge startup TPO, became more confident in pitching her business to international partners after attending last year’s Google for Startups Founders Academy. “The program provided unique and valuable learnings unlike anything I had received in Japan,” says Mariko. “Amid a male-centric startup ecosystem, the incorporation of more women leaders will act as a powerful catalyst for other women to follow suit.”
On top of equity-free capital, recipients of the Google for Startups Women Founders Fund will receive dedicated mentorship and technical support from Google experts. Interested founders in India, Japan and Korea can apply for the Women Founders Fund from today until August 15, 2023.