Women Who Tech, a national nonprofit working to break down barriers to women in the tech industry, and Craig Newmark just announced the fourth Women Startup Challenge pitch competition, a nationwide contest that will focus on showcasing and funding women-led startups working in the areas of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI).
The Women StartupChallenge, created in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation, and sponsored in part by startup investors Fred and Joanne Wilson, will award $50,000 as a cash grant among other startup friendly services.
“VR, AR, and AI are the new frontier in tech and it’s vitally important that women and their companies get funded so that their perspective on these life changing products is brought to market,” said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, which organizes the competition. “It’s estimated that there will be 170 million VR users by 2018. Every major tech company is investing heavily in AI, and it’s critical that women-led ventures claim their stake in the space.”
The national pitch competition will be held in New York City in February, 2017. Applications and contest rules can be found here. Applications will be accepted through December 12, 2016, at which point 10 finalists will be selected to participate in the live pitch competition.
The panel of expert judges will include Robert Scoble, entrepreneur-in-residence at Upload VR; Lisa Stone, entrepreneur and cofounder of BlogHer; Lynne Johnson, former senior editor of Fast Company; and Sandy Carter, a Ladybrille Woman of the Month Alum, CEO of Silicon-Blitz and formerly of IBM.
“Money’s important, but there’s more than just prize money to this,” said Newmark. “Our Women Startup Challenges have gotten women tech entrepreneurs real visibility in the investor world and have closed seven-figure rounds.”
The application, criteria, rules, and who can compete can be found at the Women Who Tech website.
“We are looking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to VR, AR, and AI,” said Carissa Flocken, finalist from the third Women Startup Challenge at LinkedIn and cofounder of Entry Point VR, a cross-platform distribution and analytics for virtual reality content. “After the Women Startup Challenge, I got introductions to prominent investors and entry into IBM’s Global Entrepreneurship Program.” Flocken is also a judge for the upcoming Challenge.
This marks the fourth Women Startup Challenge since June 2015. To date more than 1,100 women-led startups have participated and nearly $1M in cash and other prizes have been awarded to winners and finalists.