• Start Path Empodera, the USAID and MasterCard accelerator targeting high-impact Colombian startups led by women, has announced the six winning companies in the second edition of the program. Each entrepreneur will receive up to US$35,000 in non-reimbursable funding to invest in strengthening their business.
  • The program is focused on visionary and innovative women who lead high-potential early-stage companies in fintech, financial inclusion, and technology sectors to expand their businesses.

Bogotá, July 15, 2021. In a challenging year for the global economy, the Start Path Empodera business acceleration program, an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and MasterCard, announced the women-led, high-impact Colombian startup winners of the second edition of the program.

Among the outstanding ventures are a digital loan fintech for SMEs in the fashion industry, a platform for micro and small businesses to set the price of their services, and a platform to create online stores connected to Instagram and WhatsApp, among others.

“2020 highlighted the huge gap experienced in Latin America in terms of financial inclusion. In this scenario, fintech companies have a great opportunity to deliver outstanding offers, hopefully with greater participation of women,” said Marcela Carrasco, President of MasterCard for the Andean Region. 

During the first two rounds, 845 applications were received. In the first edition, 10 winning companies were chosen, which are already in the final stage of their acceleration process. And in this second edition, after a pitch* competition, the jury chose the six startups with the greatest growth potential.

“It’s important that within the design of financial services, there are more women involved in managerial and strategic roles. Women make up more than half of the population, yet most financial services are designed by and for men, thus excluding half the potential users. That’s why we’re determined to promote women's leadership in financial technologies that contribute to inclusion,” said USAID/Colombia Deputy Mission Director Martha Aponte.

The selected ventures in Colombia will receive personalized mentoring directly from experts with unsurpassed expertise, track record, and experience in the Colombian entrepreneurship and technology ecosystem, who will support them to achieve their full potential and find their formula to grow. Likewise, each company will be awarded non-reimbursable resources of up to $20,000, plus an additional $15,000 to invest in women's inclusion and empowerment efforts.

Start Path Empodera is inspired by Start Path, MasterCard's global program launched in 2014 to attract and accelerate high-impact entrepreneurship. Since then, this international initiative has built an impressive portfolio that includes more than 250 companies that have since raised close to $3 billion in capital. Colombia is the first country in the world where a business accelerator focuses exclusively on tech startups led by women.

The program focuses on strengthening the digital ecosystem and promoting increased participation of women in the creation of new tech startups. The program seeks to solve problems of inclusion, access, and scaling commerce to improve the lives of more people. The group of women selected comprises the second of the four cohorts in the Start Path Empodera program. Registration for the third cohort will open at the end of August and will be available at https://www.startpathempodera.com/es/.

 On high-impact startups led by women

  • According to a study by MasterCard and Endeavor on tech startups founded since 2010, only 43% of companies founded by a woman or by teams with at least one woman among their founders have obtained funding, while for companies founded by men, the rate is 53%.
  • Likewise, the report indicates that at least 84% of the women surveyed somewhat agree that they face more difficulties than men in the entrepreneurial process. Additionally, 40% of them have been victims of some type of discrimination, the issue being gender 97% of the time. Source: https://www.mastercard.com/news/latin-america/es/sala-de-prensa/comunicados-de-prensa/pr-es/2021/marzo/estudio-de-mastercard-y-endeavor-sobre-la-brecha-de-genero-en-el-emprendimiento-tecnologico/
  • According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women's equality could add between $12 trillion and $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025 (equivalent to the economies of China and the United States combined). (Source: McKinsey & Company.
  • During 2020, the effects of the pandemic were especially evident for women-owned companies, many of which have less favorable loan conditions than male-owned companies. Lower financial indicators among female business owners are indicative of lacking service and attention provided by traditional financial institutions. (Source: Forbes).
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, the main challenges that women entrepreneurs recognize, after the lack of financing and access to capital, are “lack of managerial or technical knowledge,” “work life balance and women's social roles,” and “lack of access to networks and mentorship.” Other factors that they believe are a barrier to being successful in their businesses are “lack of confidence being a woman entrepreneur,” “competing in a male-dominated field,” and “poor perception of entrepreneurship.” (Source: report WX Insights 2020: The Rise of Women STEMpreneurs – a study on women entrepreneurs in STEM in Latin America and the Caribbean ).
  • According to a study by First Round Valley venture capital firm, the investments in startups that have at least one woman in the founding team performed 63% higher than those led only by men. (Source: BID).
  • The gender pay gap is well documented: women make about 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. Less well known: the gender investment gap. When women business owners pitch their ideas to investors for early-stage capital, they receive significantly less—a disparity that averages more than $1 million—than men. Yet businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making women-owned companies better investments for financial backers.  (Source: Mass Challenge and Boston Consulting Group).
  • In Colombia, out of every 10 dynamic entrepreneurs (who lead businesses with the potential to scale and generate wealth, as well as quality jobs), 7 are men and only 3 are women. (Source: book Emprendedores en Crecimiento - El reto de la financiación).


About the Pitch:

Short presentation format that aims to be brilliant and efficient to convince a third party of an idea or project in a short space of time. Pitch, as an English noun, is equivalent to the Spanish ‘presentación relámpago’ and is usually brimming with jargon such as ‘sales.’

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. Our global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MastercardNews, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Media Contacts

Roberto Vila, Mastercard