This program is part of Australia's Women's Economic Security Package, which helps to support more women into work and supports Australia's international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The program provides targeted support on a co-contribution basis to female founders of startup businesses (startups) to scale their businesses into domestic and global markets. Grants range between AUD $25,000 and $480,000.
The grant amount will be up to 50 percent of eligible project costs - unless additional requirements are met (see the grant opportunity guidelines for further information).
The entrepreneur is responsible for the remaining eligible project expenditure, plus any ineligible expenditure. Contributions to the project must be cash. Applicants may seek contributions from private investors and industry partners.
The grant opportunity is delivered through a two-stage competitive selection process:
Expression of interest (stage one)
The applicant must provide information about their startup and explain why it should be considered for a grant application, addressing the following:
- How the business meets the definition of a female founded (majority women-owned and women led) startup for the purposes of the program
- About the entrepreneur and team
- What is the new or novel product, service, or innovative/different business model
- What problem does the startup solve and who are the customers
- How does, or will the startup generate revenue, or become profitable and self-sufficient
- Whether the startup has received any money from external sources. If yes, how much and from where, if no, why
- Is the entrepreneur receiving any non-financial assistance (e.g. mentoring, access to networks, advice, or other guidance)
- How will the entrepreneur grow the startup up in Australian and/or overseas markets
- How much grant funding does the entrepreneur require and how does she propose to fund the contribution
- What would the grant funding be used for
- What barriers does the entrepreneur have to accessing funding for the startup.
Grant application (stage two)
Those invited to submit a Stage Two application, will be required to address additional assessment criteria.
To be competitive, the applicant must score at least 50 percent against all of the assessment criteria.
- Assessment criterion 1: Alignment with the program objectives and outcomes (40 points)
- Assessment criterion 2: Capacity, capability and resources to deliver the project (30 points)
- Assessment criterion 3: The impact of grant funding (30 points)
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
The program is for female founded (majority owned and led by women) startups who wish to scale their business into new domestic and global markets.
To be eligible, an applicant must:
- be a female founded (majority owned and led by women) startup
- have an Australian Business Number (ABN)
- be registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- be one of the following entities:
- an entity incorporated in Australia
- an incorporated trustee on behalf of a trust
- an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth)
- a partnership
- a sole trader.
In addition, the program only accepts applications which:
- show evidence that the startup is a female founded (at least 50 per cent owned by women and led by women).
- provide evidence to support the source of funding (e.g. letter from contributor/s confirming funding amount) (stage two applications only)
- provide evidence from the board (or chief executive officer or equivalent if there is no board) that the project is supported, and that the applicant can complete the project and meet the costs of the project not covered by grant funding (e.g. ineligible expenditure are listed on Appendix B of the grant opportunity guidelines) (stage two applications only)
The program will run over five years from 2020-21 to 2023-25.
Prior to its implementation, the program design evolved as follows:
August-October 2019: The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology released a discussion paper seeking input to the design the Boosting Female Founders Initiative. Consultations were undertaken between 26 August and 4 October 2019 to seek views from stakeholders from the startup and innovation ecosystem. The department received 323 input submissions and heard directly from more than 380 people through focus groups and a webinar.
November 2019: The Ministry released the Boosting Female Founders Initiative Consultation Outcomes Report, which highlights the key challenges facing female entrepreneurs and summarizes themes from the consultation.
March 2020: The Boosting Female Founders Initiative was launched on March 17.
The intended outcomes of the program are:
- increased number of startups founded by women
- new products and services are brought to market by startups founded by women
- increased financial investment in startups founded by women
- women improve their earning potential through entrepreneurship
- increased job creation and economic growth.
Over 2,200 expressions of interest were received in Round 1 (2020). Applications were assessed by an Independent Assessment Committee made up of successful women entrepreneurs. A total of $12 million in grant funding was available for this round.
Criticism to eligibility restrictions
It has been argued that the chosen eligibility criteria have the potential to exclude a lot of businesses which would typically be considered ‘women-led’. Under the 2020 criteria, while woman running a business with a male co-founder and a 50/50 ownership split would be eligible, as soon as that startup raises even a small amount of capital from a male investor, and hands over any amount of equity, it loses eligibility.
"It is no secret, after all, that the majority of early-stage angel investors in Australia are male, and most of the VC firms are owned and run, for the most part, by men", wrote Stephanie Palmer-Derrien, startups and technology editor at SmartCompany.
There is an entrepreneur-led petition, calling on the Ministry for Industry, Innovation, and Science to reconsider the BFF Initiative criteria.
Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology