DMZ expands programming for women entrepreneurs, launches networking platform

DMZ women in tech

Toronto incubator DMZ has unveiled a new community networking platform, the Women Founders Launchpad, as part of the tech hub’s push to expand its programming for women entrepreneurs.

The Ryerson University-connected DMZ has served women entrepreneurs with targeted initiatives since 2018. According to DMZ, its new Women Founders Launchpad program and more formalized structure will enable it to better support women entrepreneurs.

This expansion will enable DMZ to provide specialized support for women-identifying founders across four of its programs.

This expansion will enable DMZ to provide specialized support for women-identifying founders across four of the incubator’s programs: Launchpad, Bootcamp, Fast Track, and its core Incubator offering.

Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, the manager of DMZ’s Women Founders program, told BetaKit Launchpad aims to build a strong peer support network for women entrepreneurs. “The pandemic has had an amplified impact on women,” said Chelkhaoui, adding the new platform’s flexible, online, self-paced structure “really accommodates women.”

“We haven’t offered online platforms [for women founders] like this before,” said Chelkhaoui, who noted that DMZ plans to add to Launchpad on an ongoing basis. She said the platform is “the first step” in the DMZ’s push to back women entrepreneurs, as the incubator has also moved to incorporate support for women throughout its existing programs.

Under the new structure, DMZ aims to provide “a full spectrum of startup support” to women-identifying founders “from the ideation phase to the seed stage.”

RELATED: DMZ startups reach milestone of $1 billion in collective funding

According to DMZ, the new Women Founders Launchpad program will serve as a community network platform for emerging and seasoned women entrepreneurs. It will host learning content and live monthly sessions providing practical support on how to build a successful business, covering topics ranging from product development and sales to raising capital.

DMZ said its sessions “won’t shy away” from discussions about typically “taboo subjects,” including juggling the responsibilities of entrepreneurship and motherhood, how your life partner can impact your startup, women’s mental health, and self-care as a founder.

The incubator said the new Launchpad program seeks to “democratize” access to high-value content from experience women entrepreneurs “for anyone who identifies as a woman tech founder,” and aims to serve as a support community by empowering women to share their lived experiences in business and life with one another through “practical, experience-based lessons and advice.”

RELATED: Five Canadian startups among Google’s inaugural Women Founders accelerator cohort

DMZ was founded in 2010. Last month, DMZ’s alumni and current portfolio companies reached a total of $1 billion CAD in combined funding. The milestone is the product of 424 investments raised by 194 of the incubator’s startups and graduates.

The news followed significant changes DMZ made to its startup programming. The Toronto tech hub recently eliminated its “crown jewel” accelerator in favour of a new incubator program for early-stage startups, after a “massive increase” in early-stage companies applying to DMZ programs amid COVID-19 and a glut in the local accelerator space prompted the hub to re-focus on the early-stage.

Photo by Natalia Dolan, courtesy of DMZ

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit staff writer who loves to tell Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.