The Geekettes, a global organization that supports women in tech, is launching its first Demo Day on June 6th at Google Berlin. The event is open to women founders with startups in Europe and will give the top 10 startups the opportunity to pitch in front of venture capitalists, business angels, and accelerators such as hub:raum, 500 Startups, and Index Ventures.
“We are creating this as a platform and a call to action for women to get involved,” says Geekettes Founder Jess Erickson. Erickson claims that this Demo Day is the first of its kind in Germany. Applicants will be screened by venture capitalists, and the top three winners will receive a McKinsey & Company Coaching Package, which includes individual coaching and a business plan review. The deadline to apply is April 3rd.
We caught up with Erickson in an interview to discuss Demo Day and the Geekettes recent international expansion. When asked where the idea for Demo Day came from, Erickson explained that it arose from her own personal experience as a mentor for Berlin accelerators like Startupbootcamp and Microsoft Venture Accelerator. Erickson saw that there were very few females founders in the European tech sector. In response, “we made an event targeted for female led startups, so that it may attract more women and show that there are actually women that are building technology companies.”
Launched in Berlin in 2011, the Geekettes has most recently opened chapters in London, Lisbon, and the U.S. While discussing why now was the right time for the Geekettes to expand, Erickson told us that it was actually the women in her network that pushed her to do it. She says, “initially, we just wanted to sit in Germany, but when people start knocking on your door and they have incredible things that they want to do, it is hard to say no.” According to Erickson, we will start seeing more events like Demo Day in other Geekette cities. New York City is already planning its own Demo Day, while Hamburg is about to announce a hackathon.
Though chapter leaders can customize Geekette events based on the wants and needs of their communities, Erickson maintains that she and her cofounder Denise Philipp will still be fully involved the organization’s development: “This is completely opposite from the traditional franchise model… It is important that when you scale an organization, it doesn’t become watered down and damaged. It needs to become stronger, more efficient, and you have to feel like it’s sustainable…Our mission is to build strong hubs and to connect all these hubs together so that when a Berlin Geekette travels to New York she can immediately be plugged in to the community there.”
Erickson says that the Geekettes do not plan to expand to other cities in 2014, but is confident that “this is really just beginning. We want this to be very well done, very high quality.”