7 Women-Led CEE Startups in the EmpoWomen Programme

  • EmpoWomen acceleration programme for female entrepreneurs closed its open call and the selected startups have begun the acceleration
  • 6 of 11 selected startups come from the CEE countries
  • More female founders are welcome to apply for the Programme’s second open call which will finalize this December

This May marked the successful conclusion of EmpoWomen’s first Open Call. This is an initiative aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in the EU widening countries (including the entirety of the CEE region). 

Launched by the Spain-based innovation consultancy agency SPLORO in partnership with TechUkraine, Startup Wise Guys, and Business Angels Europe, EmpoWomen was designed to provide female founders with resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Its aim is to break down barriers and promote a more inclusive ecosystem for female-led businesses

Tatiana Skydan, Communication Lead at EmpoWomen

‘Despite consistent growth in the business world, women remain substantially underrepresented as entrepreneurs, particularly in Europe. In the deep tech sector, currently valued at EUR 700B, women account for only 10% of patent applications, and less than 15% of startups are founded or co-founded by women,’ EmpoWomen’s communication lead Tatiana Skydan states.

She underscores EmpoWomen project’s mission to overcome the obstacles faced by women in the field of R&D&I to improve equality in deep-tech entrepreneurship.

‘EmpoWomen offers a unique program for scaling up women-led companies with the objective of creating an exclusive support program for female founders and entrepreneurs leading deep-tech startups from widening-area countries to grow into tomorrow’s female tech leaders and put women at the forefront of deep tech in the world,’ Ms Skydan adds.

In practice, it is a 2-year program (2024-2025) that consists of unique acceleration and mentoring and presupposes non-repayable funding totaling EUR 1.125, as well as prizes and services for the 25 selected women-led deep tech companies. This includes  EUR 45K in equity-free funding per startup plus other services, awards, vouchers for participation in tech events, totaling up to EUR 60K per startup.

During the Open Call period, which commenced on January 8 and concluded on March 8 this year, EmpoWomen received 169 applications from women-led deep tech startups from 23 emerging market countries in the wider Europe. After a rigorous selection process during the first Open Call, 11 female-led startups were chosen to participate in the programme. ITKeyMedia approached the participants from the CEE region and found out what brought them to EmpoWomen and what they expect of the programme.

We discovered EmpoWomen through social media, and it immediately caught our attention. It is both woman-oriented and focused on deep tech, which perfectly aligns with our interests and background. Being part of a program that champions women in the deep tech space is incredibly inspiring and resonates deeply with our passion for technology and gender equality. This unique combination made us eager to join and contribute to such a vibrant and forward-thinking community.

Our expectations from the EmpoWomen Programme are multifaceted. We aim to improve and polish our skills, particularly focusing on the women in our team. We are committed to working hard to learn effective strategies for attracting more women to the deep tech field – because we see how big of a challenge it is. We also hope to gain valuable insights and mentorship that will empower us to foster a more inclusive and diverse environment within the tech industry.

Noemi Zabari, Co-Founder and CEO at Astroteq.ai (Poland)

I found out about the EmpoWomen Programme through the SPLORO platform. The programme immediately caught my interest because it was perfectly aligned with the current expectations and needs of our company. After a year of participating in various competitions and mentoring sessions, I was very keen on applying for an ambitious acceleration programme. I believed it would significantly aid in achieving our company’s goals and drive us forward.

Our primary goal from the EmpoWomen Programme is to achieve product-market fit stage, which involves launching our first production, promotion, and sales. Additionally, we aim to promote our project and secure further funding to support the growth and development of Heilo.

Małgorzata Walichiewicz, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Heilo (Poland)

Discovering EmpoWomen was a pivotal moment for us. As a startup with a product that has the potential to change women’s lives on a large scale, finding a program like EmpoWomen was crucial. What really drew us in was its unique commitment to genuinely empowering women-led businesses. It’s not just about acceleration; it’s about fostering an environment where global networking can flourish and where businesses can thrive on an international scale.

Our expectations for the EmpoWomen Programme are quite high, and rightly so. We’re here to sharpen our focus, strategically tackle our milestones, and leverage the invaluable support from industry veterans and top-tier mentors. The programme’s structured approach, combined with the backing of Sploro, the Startup Wise Guys, and Business Angels Europe, equips us to excel and push the boundaries of what our startup can achieve.

Sława Madelska, Founder and CEO at HUGUP (Poland)

I found out about EmpoWomen program from the largest scientific research institution in Lithuania – Center for Physical Sciences and Technology. They are our technology partner.  One of the researchers shared the information about this programme and said: ‘This is exactly what you need, Prakseda.’  After looking at this program, I got interested in the accelerator coordinated by Startup Wise Guys as I’ve been following them for a long time. Also, I noted the cooperation with Business Angels Europe, which could help to attract great contacts for future investments. Of course, the opportunity to receive a grant of EUR 45,000K in equity-free funding for a startup was a great motivation as well, because investors want to see the product, but in order to create an MVP in the field of deep tech, significant resources, both human and financial, are needed.

We want to refine our business plan, as well as prepare an investment attraction strategy, and find new useful contacts for product development. Since we have already participated in the PODIM conference in Slovenia together with EmpoWomen members, we have already felt the benefits and discovered unexpected acquaintances that have already given us useful knowledge. Furthermore, I want to get to know all the leaders who participate in the program better because some of them already have more experience in the different product development stages. We can exchange advice, share experiences, and support each other

Prakseda Mineikienė, Co-Founder and CEO at INNOSENSUS (Lithuania)

I stumbled upon the EmpoWomen Program quite serendipitously on LinkedIn, thanks to a post shared by one of our esteemed partners. The focus on empowering women within the tech sector instantly resonated with me as it aligns closely with my personal values. The dedication to fostering an environment where women can thrive in technology truly inspired me. The allure of the program was magnified by its promise of not just funding but also mentorship and robust networking specifically tailored for women-led enterprises. The idea of collaborating with fellow female entrepreneurs and top industry experts excited me. Furthermore, the backing from the European Union and renowned organizations like Startup Wise Guys and Business Angels Europe lent an additional layer of trust and prestige to the initiative. For us at IQ Biozoom, it felt like the perfect opportunity to advance our innovative endeavors while championing female empowerment in the high-tech arena.

We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the EmpoWomen Program and are eager to dive into all the learning and growth opportunities it has to offer. Our primary goal is to deepen our expertise in the deep-tech sector, ensuring we’re well-equipped to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We look forward to the invaluable mentorship and the chance to connect with seasoned investors who can provide both guidance and potential pathways to success. The financial support from the program is incredibly empowering: it allows us the freedom to innovate without the stress of financial constraints or losing equity. Plus, the visibility we gain through EmpoWomen is phenomenal. It not only helps boost our startup but also plays a crucial role in promoting diversity within the tech ecosystem. We are excited to see how this programme will help us grow and influence the broader tech landscape, making it more inclusive and innovative. We can’t wait to leverage every moment of this experience to propel IQ Biozoom and our mission forward!

Dorota Dardzińska, CEO at IQ Biozoom (Poland)

First I heard about EmpoWomen during one of the conferences – Slush – while talking about opportunities available for startups in the EU. Later on, a number of connections in my network  within the Moldovan startup community mentioned this programme – but at this point we had already applied for it.

We spent last year defining our vision and mission, building our MVP, and developing our product roadmap. It is time for us to take the next step – go-to-market, and we need a push in this direction. EmpoWomen programme is designed to provide not only necessary support but also the motivation and the drive to fuel our sales.

Aliona Levca, Co-Founder and CEO at Pinky CyberSafe (Moldova)

Alberto Sierra Bañón, Project Coordinator at EmpoWomen, COO at SPLORO

‘We are thrilled by the immense interest and engagement we have witnessed during the first open call for EmpoWomen. The sheer number of applications from diverse corners of the globe underscores the universal demand for initiatives dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs. We are deeply inspired by the innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by the applicants,’ EmpoWomen’s project coordinator Alberto Sierra Bañón shares his team’s excitement.

The second Open Call for startups kicks off in December 2024 and aims to reach all tech ecosystems of the listed countries. The requirements for participation will be the same, but the number of startups selected to the second EmpoWomen’s cohort will be 15.


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