Amazon Web Services (AWS) and leading venture capital firm Lightspeed today announced AccelerateHer 2023, a program designed to enable women founders of early-stage Indian startups to build, grow, and scale successful technology businesses.

The program provides selected women-led startups access to mentorship opportunities with leaders across industries. They will also receive technical resources and benefits curated by AWS for early-stage startups, and connect with an active peer community of women founders. The program will conclude with a Demo Day, where the selected cohort will get fundraising opportunities by pitching their solutions to a panel of leading investors. AccelerateHer is aligned with United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day 2023, which is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.

Creating a diverse and inclusive tech community

AWS AccelerateHer program images

“Today’s launch of AccelerateHer is a timely call to action towards building a future where the tech entrepreneurial community is diverse, inclusive, and accessible to all,” said Amitabh Nagpal, Head of Startup Ecosystem, AWS India (Amazon Web Services India Pvt. Ltd.). “AccelerateHer upholds the Government’s vision of Startup India, which promotes the sustainable development of women entrepreneurs for balanced growth in the country. At AWS, we are committed to providing startups with access to secure, scalable, and cost-efficient cloud services. Through this program, the shortlisted participants will receive access to AWS’s technical resources, a unique opportunity to raise capital, and make connections with a curated industry panel, to help them overcome gender-linked entrepreneurial barriers and advance the growth of their business,” Nagpal said.

“At Lightspeed, we believe that we will succeed only if we take decisions that are better informed, with a diverse set of perspectives - including gender, education, experiences and backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion in thinking is a core value that we live by, and is truly a reflection of who we are and how we operate,” said Rahul Taneja, Partner at Lightspeed. “The AccelerateHer program, in collaboration with AWS, is in line with our core values and reflects our commitment to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. We are passionate believers that creating access, enabling communities, and sharing knowledge are important elements with which AccelerateHer will enable our female founders to build enduring companies,” Taneja said.

Mentor panel of investors, entrepreneurs and AWS experts

AWS AccelerateHer program images

AccelerateHer is a sector-agnostic, early-stage accelerator program that is open for tech startups founded in India in the past five years, having at least one woman founder or co-founder, and a minimum viable or launched product. Startups, either bootstrapped or having raised funding of less than USD $3 million, can apply. Evaluation criteria includes scalability, impact, technical foundation, and business viability. Post evaluation by AWS and Lightspeed, the top 20 early-stage startups will be selected as the cohort for the program.

The AccelerateHer program will be delivered in-person and via virtual meetings, and will connect the selected early-stage startups with a mentor panel including top investors, startup leaders, and AWS experts. They will receive mentorship from leaders such as Puneet Chandok, President of Commercial Business, AWS India & South Asia (Amazon Web Services India Pvt. Ltd.); Abhishek Nag, Partner – Lightspeed; Amit Mehra, CFO – Lightspeed; Rahul Taneja, Partner – Lightspeed; Nithin Kamath, Founder & CEO – Zerodha; Shally Modi, Co-Founder – Pratilipi; Saumya Singh Rathore, Co-founder – WinZo, among others.

AMA sessions and live masterclasses

The panel of experts will mentor the selected startups through live virtual masterclasses and Ask Me Anything (AMAs) sessions, covering topics such as market sizing, technology foundation, product-market-fit, go-to-market strategy, sales and marketing engines, branding, communication, investment and lessons on leadership.

Here’s a snapshot of benefits for the selected startups:

  • Community: A managed peer-to-peer community of women founders building for Indian and global markets, to enable collaboration and learning from each other’s successes and failures. 
  • AWS benefits: Access to AWS Activate program, including AWS credits, besides startup-friendly discounts from various organisations.
  • Fundraising: On Demo Day, selected startups will have an opportunity to raise capital by pitching to a panel of top VCs, angel investors, successful founders, domain and industry experts.

Helping women founders innovate

AWS’s community of women founders has grown through collaborations with diversity-focused organisations such as StrongHer Ventures, She Capital, Encubay, TiE Delhi NCR, and others. The AccelerateHer program follows the success of similar initiatives such as Techxelerate, a virtual program announced in 2021, and co-created with the Indian Women Institutional League (IWIL), and sponsored by AWS Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Innovation (ID&E) Fund. Techxelerate has provided selected startups mentorship from AWS and industry experts, followed by an invitation to select startups to join the AWS Activate program., an early-stage healthtech startup, was part of the Techxelerate cohort, and leveraged AWS to scale their web application. “Through Techxelerate, we accessed AWS credits, which gave us the freedom to evolve through the teething troubles of building and expanding a startup,” said Sakshie Rastogi, Co-Founder, The CEO of BRIOTA Technologies, Aditi Pais, appreciated the mentorship provided by AWS and industry experts through Techxelerate. “Each session gave us powerful insights into new ways of looking at existing challenges, and new ideas that could be implemented into our businesses,” said Pais.

Interested individuals can learn more about the AccelerateHer program and apply for it here. Applications for AccelerateHer are open until April 3, 2023, and results will be announced in May 2023.