The simple reason one startup farm chose only female founders for its next class

HouseoverviewBlackboxThe Blackbox startup house in Palo Alto, CA

Blackbox, an intensive mentorship program for international startups, is trying something new: It chose only female-led companies for its next 12-startup, Google-sponsored, two-week residential course later this month.


There are a lot of good answers, drawn from research and observation, like the chronic under-representation of women in tech, or a report from Illuminate Ventures that claims that women-led startups make better use of their cash and have 12% higher revenues than the average.

But the one reason that stands paramount, says Blackbox founder Fadi Bishara, is that female founders care more. The best, most successful startups emerge when the founders are really passionate about the work they’re doing.

“That comes from an emotional connection,” Bishara says. “And it’s more with women.”

The way the Blackbox program works hasn’t changed much over the last four years it’s been in operation.

Take a bunch of startups from around the globe, pack them into a house in Palo Alto, California — the heart of Silicon Valley — for two weeks at a time, and give them training, tools, mentorships, and the critical introductions to valuable connections like recruiters and investors they will need to succeed.

Given that international focus, with companies drawn from more than 50 countries, Blackbox takes the inclusion of many viewpoints and cultures as a priority, says Bishara.

“Typically, we make it as diverse as possible,” he says.

Half of all Blackbox participants have been women overall, Bishara says. But this so-called Blackbox Connect Female Founders Edition is the first program that will be entirely women. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Google for Entrepreneurs program, their Blackbox fees are all taken care of, plus they get a solid day of mentorship at Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

The actual startups are in pretty diverse fields, from art education to e-commerce to mental health to adtech. They come from places as far afield as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, Poland, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.

One founder, Tatiana Birgisson, won Google’s own startup Demo Day recently with her company Mati Energy, which has a proprietary energy drink formula she came up with while suffering a bout of depression during her time as a student at Duke University.

By living in that house together, Bishara says, the founders get to draw on each others’ “rich knowledge” and become better businesspeople and leaders.

From Bishara’s standpoint, focusing on female founders is both a canny business move, since “‘overlooked’ is a great place to focus on,” as well as a professionally fulfilling one.

“It’s valuable to really see hungry and talented people getting great value,” Bishara says.

The Blackbox Connect Female Founders Edition will take place in Palo Alto from April 27 – May 8, 2015.

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