San Francisco cloud giant Salesforce is funding a Big Brother-style house in South London for young women and girls interested in setting up their own technology company, it announced today.
The house - being set up as part of the Outbox Incubator initiative in conjunction with social enterprise Stemmetes - will act as a home, workspace and incubator to approximately 200 aspiring female entrepreneurs aged 11 to 22 over a six-week period starting this July, with up to 45 in the property at any one time.
Speaking at Salesforce's UK headquarters at the 101 Bishopsgate skyscraper today, Salesforce area VP Melissa Di Donato, said: “These girls are the future leaders of not just technology companies but also of our society in the UK.”
The high-flying business woman went on to say she was alarmed when she recently found out less than one and a half percent of today’s tech companies are founded by women, adding that she wants her 15-month-old daughter to have the same opportunities men have in the technology industry.
While in the house, the girls will hear from mentors like Lastminute.com cofounder Martha Lane Fox about running a business, developing a product and getting funding to take their ideas to market.
During the six week period there will be an initial three week "germination" phase, followed by a demo day on 15 August, followed by a three week "incubation" period.
Salesforce said the demo day will see angels and mentors pledging money, time and support to girls on the programme.
Combination of X-Men, Big Brother and The Apprentice
Founder and head of Stemette Anne-Marie Imafidon described the house as “X-Men, come Big Brother, come The Apprentice, all rolled into one.”
In order to gain entry to the house, girls must either nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.
Stemettes, whose name expands on STEM acronym (science, technology, engineering and maths), is looking for participants that either already have a STEM-related idea, organisation, brand or product; or have STEM talent which has been publicly recognised.
Girls at several companies have already been nominated to be a part of the Outbox Incubator and five of them pitched their business ideas to approximately 100 people at the launch event.
Pitches on the day ranged from a duo that had prototyped a kids toothbrush that harnesses the power of the internet of things to inform parents when their children are brushing their teeth properly, to another duo that have already received $50,000 from Google for their project which aims to combat the global food crisis.
Salesforce, which recorded revenues of over $4 billion last year, was not willing to reveal how much money it is investing into the Outbox Incubator through the Salesforce Foundation, which Salesforce said it set up in a bid to share the company's people, technology, and resources to help improve communities around the world.
It’s unclear if Salesforce plans to invest any of its own money into the technology companies that the young women work on.
There are several other organisations supporting the initiative, including WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and its patron HRH Princess Anne.
WISE is aiming to increase the gender balance in the UK’s STEM workforce, pushing the presence of female employees from 13 percent as it stands now, to 30 percent by 2020.
The Stemettes Outbox Incubator programme will run from 27 July to 5 September 2015. Applications open from 28 April via www.outboxincubator.com.