empower startups 2019
  • empoWer, India’s first tech accelerator for women entrepreneurs, hosted a Demo Day for its 4th Edition with a cohort of 9 startups 
  • The 2019 cohort presented their startup pitches to an audience and jury consisting of investors, corporates, entrepreneurs, government partners and industry experts
  • Top 3 startups received a total cash grant of INR 37.5 Lakhs
  • One startup was selected for a one-week market access to Quebec.

Zone Startups India hosted the demo day of the 4th cohort of empoWer accelerator program, at the BSE International Convention Centre. The 4-week accelerator program culminated in top 9 women entrepreneurs from the cohort presenting their startups, with over 50+ leading industry players, successful entrepreneurs, top corporate professionals, delegates from the government, and prolific investors in attendance.

The 4th Edition of empoWer was launched on June 21, 2019, inviting applications from technology-led women-owned businesses in enterprise tech, social impact and consumer tech. This 2019 edition is sponsored by BSE CSR Integrated Foundation and launched in partnership with the Québec Government. Post the program announcement, roadshows were held across 4 cities in India with the final launch in Mumbai to pool in the best technology startups from diverse sectors.The roadshows attracted a total of 150+ attendees. With 270+ applicants received for the program, top 14 startups were selected for empoWer bootcamp. 

The 3-day bootcamp took place in September 2019, with focus on designing business model, pitch coaching sessions and peer to peer knowledge sharing. 9 women founders from the bootcamp were on-boarded as a part of the 4-week accelerator program.


The sectors ranged across logistics, healthcare, AgriTech, capacity building, virtual reality, FinTech, IoT, interior design, and crowdfunding. empoWer accelerator program took on a fresh approach this year by providing sector-specific connects locally with mentors, investors and corporates. They were also hosted for one-on-one meetings in Mumbai with the legal firm, Lexstart, and Finance & Accounting firm, Savage & Palmer. One-on-one investor meets were facilitated with Artha Fund Ventures, BayTree and Unicorn Ventures.

Says Hemant Gupta, MD, Zone Startups India – “This is the 4th edition of empoWer and we have leveraged the learnings from the past 3 editions to make it more impactful. We have a tight cohort of 9 startups that have undergone two rounds of screening. Rather than calling the startups to Mumbai multiple times, we have moved to a localised model of support, providing the startups the support/mentorship/connects they need in their cities’ of operation. However, the core of the program stays the same, we will be supporting and tracking these startups even after the Demo day and providing them the support they need to scale and succeed”.

The opening fireside chat at the empoWer Demo Day was delivered by Dharti Desai, Vice President – TiE New York and Vice-Chair TiE International Women and was moderated by Harshit Desai, Head – customer experience, strategic initiatives and digital, Aditya Birla Capital, with a focus on how startups can scale their startups to a global level with the role that communication plays in its success.

The fireside chat was followed by a high-profile panel discussion moderated by Rashmi Bansal, author, entrepreneur and a youth expert. The panelists included Akshay Soni, Managing Director – N/Core, Sharda Agarwal, co-Founder – Sepalika and Marketgate and Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioner from the Nutrition Therapy Association, Hariharan Mahadevan, Senior Vice President and Head of Strategic Projects, Analytics, MIS and CSR at ICICI Securities, and Prachi Jain, Director at Achieving Women Entrepreneurs Funds. The talk addressed one of the major pain points in the ecosystem for women entrepreneurs i.e. Funding challenges.

Akshay Soni, Dharti Desai, Hariharan Mahadevan, Prachi Jain and Sharda Agarwal donned the jury hat to judge the 9 startups from the 2019 cohort that presented their startups. Pratyusha Pareddy, Co-founder of Nemo.Care, emerged as the winner of the empoWer cash grant of INR 18 lakhs. Nupur Gupta, Co-founder of NIRA and Monika Shukla, Co-founder of LetsEndorse, were announced as the first and second runner-ups respectively, with a cash grant of INR 12 lakhs for the 1st runner-up and INR 7.5 Lakhs for the 2nd runner-up. The cash grants were supported by BSE CSR Integrated Foundation.

Based on the international scalability potential, NemoCare was offered a one-week market access trip to Montreal by Government of Quebec, tentatively scheduled for May 2020.

Francis Paradis, Consul & Director of the Quebec Government Office in Mumbai shared a few words about the startup selection for the market access trip with empoWer. He says, “Use of smart technology in neonatal care helps to nurture a healthy generation. Who else but a woman can understand it better! Hence, Nemocare was an obvious choice of Quebec government as we give priority to diversity, women empowerment, health care and AI. We are delighted to see all these points converge in the winner of empower 2019 cohort who will be eligible for a Quebec market access trip in 2020.”

The program participants had great things to share about empoWer. “empoWer is the push and conviction that every entrepreneur needs in their journey. The accelerator program opens doors to numerous industry experts relevant to your line of business. BECKFriends.com benefitted from the connects made with blockchain experts and international delegates for market access. And while the program ends, the network remains to be reached out for any advice or access needs. This has been a truly empowering and enriching 4 weeks!”, says Shikha Pandey Co-Founder, BECKFriends.com.

empoWer now has a cumulative cohort size of 79 women entrepreneurs, built over 4 cohorts. The empoWer cohort will receive year-long post-program support.

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