A consciousness of the gender divide is racing across the world, and right on its heels are country leaders, investors, and company boards, pushing for diversity and lessened gender disparity in the funding landscape. Things are happening less quickly in Africa, the second most populous continent, where women run 40% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) but receive only 1% of funding from venture capitalists (VCs). However, research demonstrates that companies founded by women generate higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making them better investments. At the moment, this gap costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion annually.  To close the gender gap, initiatives like women-focused accelerators have been launched to prepare more women-led SMEs for investment. Recently, Nine-year-old accelerator Grindstone partnered with youth development programme Naspers Labs to launch one of such accelerators—the Grindstone X Programme. 

The Grindstone X Programme is a women-focused accelerator in South Africa that will provide women-led SMEs with access to expert knowledge, resourceful networks, funding and markets to make them more investible, scalable, and exit-ready. It will be a cohort-based program that lasts for three years, with each cohort lasting one year. Each year, Grindstone will enlist ten of the best women-founded South African businesses into the programme. In total, 30 women will be supported by the programme. In order to ensure a significant impact, Grindstone will give priority in the hiring process to founders who are African, Colored, and Indian, as well as young people, individuals with disabilities, and residents of less affluent areas.  Interested applicants can apply here.

Speaking about the accelerator, Grindstone Partner, Keet van Zyl said, “There is so much untapped female entrepreneurial talent in South Africa, and we need to get creative in how to unearth this at scale. Value-adding partnerships between innovative corporates such as Naspers Labs and programmes with a successful track record of engineering start-up growth such as Grindstone focus efforts on tailored interventions for founders that positively impact on their business’s metrics.”  Some of the tailored interventions of the programme include business strategy reviews; go-to-market planning; funding readiness preparedness; networking; business coaching from exceptional coaches, including some of the Grindstone Alumni companies who have successfully scaled their businesses; as well as funding support from Naspers Labs.

Asserting Naspers Lab’s enthusiasm for the partnership, Head of Naspers Labs, Mapule Ncanywa, said, “We are honoured to be able to invite our country’s talented female-founded start-ups to apply for the GrindstoneX accelerator programme.” At Naspers Labs, we are committed to assisting the development of micro-enterprises with an emphasis on young women. Through this partnership, we aim to help grow the tech sector and the economy by unlocking the potential of female-founded startups.”

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