Zone Startups, the Mumbai-based “BSE-located” startup accelerator which just recently closed a staggering $25 Million round, has invested close to INR 60 Lakhs in three women-led startups under its “empoWer” acceleraor program.

Zone Startups India had announced an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs named “empoWer”, in partnership with Department of Science and Technology, Vodafone, Google and Nishith Desai Associates in April. The program is claimed to be the first technology accelerator for women entrepreneurs.

It had received around 180 applications from all over the country. From those 180 applications, 15 were selected for the program. During the program, which lasted for 6 weeks, they got a chance to interact with over 40 mentors and visit industries.

Commenting about this, Ajay Ramasubramaniam said,

The number of applications exceeded our expectations. Having to select only 15 female founders from such a pool was a challenge but, it was a good challenge to have. The process validated our hypotheses of the need to have a program such as empoWer. A majority of the founders that applied felt that a structured program that offered a strong peer network, industry connects and access to mentors is what they were lacking.

After the end of the 6-week program, Zone Startups India hosted the first empoWer accelerator demo day on 29th July. It was hosted at the BSE International Convention Centre, and was attended by close to 150 guests, which included the investor community and large corporates.

The main event of demo day, were the 15 startup pitches. As per Zone Startups India, the quality of startups and the problem that they were solving were all high quality. The pitches were followed by several prizes.

Zone Startups India gave equity free seed funding of Rs 10 Lakhs, Rs 7 Lakhs and Rs 5 Lakhs to the top 3 women founded startups, based on multiple evaluation criteria. The winners were Saral Designs, DAZL and Shubh Puja, respectively. The cash prizes were sponsored by Department of Science and Technology and Vodafone.

Additionally, GIZ also handed out 3 prizes of Rs 7 Lakhs each for covering partial cost of research and prototype development. The winners in this category were Algaari Systems, Math Adventures and Project Mudra.

Based on the international scalability potential, Cloudrino was offered a 2-week bespoke market access program at the DMZ, Canada’s one of the leading technology business incubator. Also, Delhi-based Vanity Cube, an on-demand beauty services marketplace won £5,000 worth design and branding package from Dccper, a global design company.

The program had a keynote address by Vicki Saunders, Founder, SheEO – an international woman support organization. She said that globally, only 4% of all venture capital investments go to women entrepreneurs.

Commenting about this program, Saumya Vardhan, Founder and CEO of, said,

The last six weeks have been great. I’ve done an MBA. The empoWer program is an MBA for startups.

Bhargavi S, Co-Founder, FinMitra, said,

Through program far exceeded my expectations.  The quality of mentors has been amazing, as well as the session content. I’ve never worked out of a program like this, and never knew what I was missing – so many great people and connections and  information.

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