Now in its fourth edition, the latest competition will for the first time focus on funding women-led startups working in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI).
The Women Startup Challenge, created in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation, and sponsored in part by startup investors Fred and Joanne Wilson, will award $50,000 as a cash grant among other startup-friendly services. Women Who Tech is nationwide nonprofit working to support women in the technology sector.
“VR, AR, and AI are the new frontier in tech and it’s vitally important that women and their companies get funded so that their perspective on these life changing products is brought to market,” said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, which organizes the competition. “It’s estimated that there will be 170 million VR users by 2018. Every major tech company is investing heavily in AI, and it’s critical that women-led ventures claim their stake in the space.”
The national pitch competition will be held in New York City in February 2017. Applications and contest rules can be found here. Applications will be accepted through December 12, 2016, at which point 10 finalists will be selected to participate in the live pitch competition.
The panel of expert judges will include Robert Scoble, entrepreneur-in-residence at Upload VR; Lisa Stone, entrepreneur and co-founder of BlogHer; Lynne Johnson, former senior editor of Fast Company; and Sandy Carter, CEO of Silicon-Blitz and formerly of IBM.
“Money’s important, but there’s more than just prize money to this,” said Newmark. “Our Women Startup Challenges have gotten women tech entrepreneurs real visibility in the investor world and have closed seven-figure rounds.”
The application, criteria, rules, and who can compete can be found at the Women Who Tech website.
“We are looking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to VR, AR, and AI,” said Carissa Flocken, finalist from the third Women Startup Challenge at LinkedIn and co-founder of Entry Point VR, a cross-platform distribution, and analytics for virtual reality content. “After the Women Startup Challenge, I got introductions to prominent investors and entry into IBM’s Global Entrepreneurship Program.” Flocken is also a judge for the upcoming Challenge.
This marks the fourth Women Startup Challenge since June 2015. To date, more than 1,100 women-led startups have participated and nearly $1M in cash and other prizes have been awarded to winners and finalists.