Female Founders Program

Are you trying to start a company?

The Female Founders Program is a springboard for female founders based in the Newcastle region, empowering them to navigate their startup journey with confidence. The program’s main aim is to level the playing field for committed female founders to build their businesses and reach their fullest potential.

Did you miss the Female Founders Program Information Session? Watch the recording and catch up on the session.

The Female Founders Program focuses on supporting majority female-led startups by delivering high-quality support including:

  1. Tailored mentoring and coaching
  2. Startup insight workshops
  3. Peer network development
  4. Continued support

This free 10-week program is centered around insight workshops, covering topics such as:

  • Understanding your business opportunity
  • Understanding your market
  • Exploring your customer journey and validation concepts
  • Evaluating your competition
  • Developing your business model
  • Developing a minimum viable product
  • Startup legals
  • Fundraising and pitching

The program focuses on hands-on peer-to-peer learning and the cohort companies sharing the challenges in their own individual journeys. Founders will experience access to a supportive professional network and community and have the opportunity to connect with industry experts.

Additionally, the Female Founders program offers access to cross-program sessions hosted by I2N.

Important dates

Applications now open

Applications close: 11:59 PM Sunday 19 September 2021

Program commences: Wednesday 6 October 2021

Demo Day:  Wednesday 15 December 2021

Who should apply
  • The company must have at least one founder that self-identifies as female. This member must have a majority/equal equity stake in the business
  • You are headquartered in the Newcastle region 
  • You are leveraging technology to deliver a new-to-market product or service.
  • Your company will be at the pre-seed funding stage
  • You are a committed and growth-oriented individual
  • You can attend weekly workshops, office hours, and mentoring sessions over a nine-week period
  • You have the ambition to scale
  • You are open to feedback and are coachable.

*Agencies and consultancies are excluded.

Make an application Female Founders Program


Do I have to live or work in the Newcastle Local Government Area to be eligible? Applications from founders living or working in the following LGA's will be considered: Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Maitland, Cessnock.

What stage should my company be at? We are looking to support founders who are pre-startup stage through to the early-stage startup stage. Indicators include having a clear and meaningful target and direction over the next 1-3 years; having a core team of founders with balanced ownership or support from an extended team offering lighter commitment; having the ability to develop a prototype without having to depend on external funding, or already have a product in the market that may be generating sales.

Where will Female Founders Program take place? If COVID restrictions allow, the program will take place at I2N Hub Honeysuckle, Q Building, 16 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle. If COVID restrictions are in force, the program will be delivered via Zoom. I2N has vast experience delivering programs online.

Do I have to be a University of Newcastle student, staff member, or alumni to participate? No. Affiliation to the University of Newcastle is not a prerequisite for a successful application.

How many people can I have on my team? Teams can consist of between 1-3 founders with at least one founder that identifies as female.

What is the attendance requirement of the program? The program is over 9 weeks with weekly workshops (2-3 hours each Wednesday), coaching sessions (30 minutes each Wednesday), and mentor meetings (1 hour at a time that suits). Attendance by all team members at the workshops, coaching sessions, and mentor meetings is mandatory. Exceptions will be considered only in exceptional circumstances and on a case-by-case basis.

There is an expectation that founders will undertake a minimum of 10 additional hours per week to put into practice the workshop and coaching learnings. Consider carefully your capacity to commit to the program before making an application.

What are you looking for in an application? Applications are reviewed before offers are made to founders who address essential criteria. That is, the problem you are trying to solve, the potential solution you have in mind, and who the end-users/beneficiaries you have identified are. Your application doesn't have to be 'right', it just needs to demonstrate that you have thought about the problem you are trying to develop a solution for, the insights, invention, or idea you are taking advantage of, and have provided your best possible 'guess' about what that might be and who would most benefit. We also consider what has motivated the founder to apply and what you hope to achieve in addition to other team member profiles and their potential contribution to the team.

Can I access the questions asked in order to prepare my application? Absolutely. The questions are saved in this word document for your review.

Intellectual Property (IP)

The University of Newcastle makes no claim over the intellectual property (IP) generated by participants as part of the Female Founders Program (subject to the University’s IP Policy and Procedure) provided your use of the IP acknowledges that the IP was developed as part of the Female Founders Program (unless it is unreasonable to do so).

If a team member is an employee or student of the University of Newcastle, they agree and acknowledge that ownership of the IP will be in accordance with the University IP Policy and Procedure, as amended from time to time. IP Policy found here. IP Procedure found here.

Why I2N?

The University of Newcastle's I2N works with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunities. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, the I2N cultivates entrepreneurial mindsets behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

Our programs are more than theory. They are about action and equipping you with the practical tools and strategies necessary to have an immediate impact on your entrepreneurship journey.

What if I have more questions?

Watch the Female Founders Program Information Session recording or book a 15-minute Q&A Zoom session via this link and get your questions answered.

Program Partner

The Female Founders Program is proudly supported by the City of Newcastle

Make an application Female Founders Program

In the days immediately after the application close date on 19 September 2021, your team will be required to join a 30-minute interview (via Zoom) with the selection panel as part of the assessment process.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.