October 7, 2022

DivInc Houston, a nonprofit that aims to remove barriers to help entrepreneurs, especially people of color and women, launched its new “Women in Tech” accelerator on Sept. 19.
The program runs through Dec. 15 and is co-sponsored by SheSpace, a female-centric coworking space.
Since this is an industry-agnostic program, the nine companies in the first cohort focus on a range of topics such as finance, education, retail and maritime. The participating companies are:
Ashley DeWalt, managing director of DivInc Houston, said there is pent-up demand in the city for a program that supports women founders.
“We really wanted to be able to capitalize on [the success of women founders] and actually provide this type of programming for other women in the city,” DeWalt said. “The amount of funding that [companies founded solely by women] get is less than 2% [of all venture capital in the U.S.]. So we’re trying to provide a solution for that.”
The program will align the companies with pilot partners and potential venture capital firms that are focused on investing in women-led companies, DeWalt said. Similar to DivInc Houston’s sports accelerator program, each startup in the program will receive a non-dilutive $10,000 grant for meeting certain milestones. The milestones are dependent on each company’s own metric goals, said Amanda Moya, program director of DivInc Houston.
The program will be held at SheSpace, 2799 Katy Freeway, Suite 250, on Mondays and Tuesdays and at the Ion, 4201 Main St., on Wednesdays.
Throughout the 12 weeks, companies going through the accelerator will get a lead mentor — there are over 60 mentors in the program — to meet with weekly. There will also be a series of VC-led workshops covering mission vision, unique value proposition, marketing, sales, fundraising, legal and more. This will allow participants to build relationships with the VCs before asking them to invest, DeWalt said.
What would typically take a startup a year to accomplish will instead be done in three months through the accelerator, Moya said.
Participants will also be given a stipend for child care, if needed. DeWalt said this will be between $1,500 and $2,500. The goal of the stipend is to remove additional challenges for the women coming through the program.
When choosing the participating companies, DeWalt and Moya said there were a number of things they, along with their partners — the Ion, SheSpace, Mercury, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Verizon — considered. Such factors included the minimum viable product, the market, founders’ domain expertise, product market fit, scalability and the stage a business is in, DeWalt said.
“We like to be right there at that beginning stage of finding out what needs to be iterated and the product or the sales cycle that they’re working in,” Moya said.
One of the companies chosen for the cohort is Snowball Wealth, a mobile-first platform founded by Pamela Martinez and Tanya Menendez to help people pay down debt and build wealth.
For Martinez, being a minority woman in tech can be really lonely, she said. In the past, she has dealt with unconscious bias, microaggressions and other barriers. Having a network of people for support is crucial for dealing with day-to-day struggles, she said.
“As a woman who is a founder and who has made it this far, one of my big priorities is to help and support other women as well,” Martinez said. “I feel like these spaces can really keep you motivated and accountable, to keep pushing the boundaries. I really do believe that we need to do that. We’re going to have to work extra hard to make [gender parity] happen, and hopefully we can pave the way so that it’s not as hard for the next generation.”
SheSpace’s founders, mother-and-daughter-in-law duo Stephanie and Katie Tsuru, said they are excited to be part of the movement behind Women in Tech. The partnership between SheSpace and DivInc was a year in the making, DeWalt said.
“Tech, historically, is another male-dominated industry [with] prejudices and stereotypes and discrimination, and those things need to be addressed,” Stephanie Tsuru told the Houston Business Journal previously. “Yes, women have been in tech for a long time, but not in this capacity — not as founders. So when they are surrounded by a cohort of all females … their growth will be exponentially larger than if surrounded by men. … I just refused to let child care and inflation and the cost of fuel limit these women from reaching their potential.”
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