Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to some of the most common questions.

Start Path Empodera is accelerator for female led startups based in Colombia and Peru. Mastercard and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have partnered to support women entrepreneurs in Colombia and Peru through the Start Path Empodera program.

It is a pilot of Start Path, Mastercard’s global and award-winning program focused on identifying and supporting high potential venture-backed startups with global ambitions to achieve scale in short timeframes.

The aim of Start Path Empodera is to advance womenʼs economic opportunities and foster a more inclusive digital economy in Colombia and Peru through the program designed to support early-stage, female-founded ventures.

Yes, we are looking for female-founded and women-led enterprises to participate in the Start Path Empodera cohorts.

Step One: You can apply for The Start Path Empodera program here at https://www.f6s.com/startpathempodera/apply

Step Two: You will need to create an F6S account if you haven’t already got one. Your application can be started, saved and returned to at a later time.

Step Three: View the recorded webinar and Terms and Conditions in the Resources section on the website above.

Make sure to submit your application for Cohort 3 by the deadline November 23, 2021 at 11:59pm BOG.

Start Path Empodera will consist of four cycles, beginning in January 2021 and expected to end in the second half of 2022. Applicants complete the online application on the Start Path Empodera website. Up to 30 participants will be selected to showcase their business model in a high-profile virtual pitch competition. A judging panel of business experts across Mastercard and USAID networks will select up to 10 finalists for the opportunity to join Start Path Empodera, a four month curriculum designed to support these entrepreneurs as they scale their businesses.

Up to 10-12 startups will join each cohort. Throughout the course of the year approximately 120 startups will take part in the pitch competition and up to 40 will join the program.

An applicant’s pitch should demonstrate how Start Path Empodera would help their business achieve scale and also; a) bring to market products/services; b) raise their individual profile as a model for aspiring female entrepreneurs; and c) ultimately attract venture capital investment.

The panel of judges will review each application and select up to 30 participants to take part in the pitch competition. They will assess each application for relevance and fits to the following required eligibility criteria:

  • A female-founded startup focused on digital technology
  • The company is registered in in Colombia or Peru
  • A startup with a large target market with potential for high growth in one of the following areas:

- Scaling fintech (improving and/or automating the delivery and use of digital financial services)

- Driving financial inclusion (increasing digital financial literacy, inclusion and access to digital financial services, across any sector or application)

- Scaling commerce (digitizing and optimizing the buying and selling of goods, across any sector, retail or online)

The judges will also take the following into account:

  • Organization Capacity: Level of team experience, expertise, and current investment
  • Solution: Development and proven successful application of unconventional, new and/or modified technologies, tools, products, or services that have differences or improvements from alternatives on the market.
  • Market: Potential market opportunity and evidence of market validation or ability to gain traction and move to scaled deployment
  • Strategic Fit: Has reasonable potential to improve lives in a measurable way and promotes inclusion and diversity in alignment with USAID, WGDP, and Mastercard’s program goals.

Applicants will be notified no later than December 2, 2021 for Cohort 3. The pitch competition will take place on January 27 and there will be a preparation session held in advance. Winners of the pitch competition will be notified the next day.

Start Path Empodera is a pilot of Start Path, Mastercard’s award-winning program focused on identifying and supporting high potential venture-backed startups with global ambitions to achieve scale in short timeframes. Launched in 2014, Start Path has built a portfolio of elite startups, with a number of female-led ventures. These women have collectively raised over $1.0B in capital to grow their businesses. Start Path Empodera is a four-month business development program based on this model and includes:

  • Training on topics including business model canvas and lean startup, design thinking, customer/user experience, entrepreneurial finance & raising capital, business model and pricing strategy, GTM sales and customer acquisition strategy, marketing, messaging, and content, and business operations - managing costs/expenses.
  • Mentor engagement.
  • Expert speaker series.
  • Supplemental online learning.
  • Program events and networking opportunities.
  • Contacts to support business, attract customers, and partners.
  • Access to diverse sources of funding for sustained growth.

To support participation in the Start Path Empodera program, pitch competition winners can apply for funding up to $20,000. Payments will be made based on pre-determined milestones linked to the applicants’ participation in the curriculum. An additional award for up to $15,000 will be awarded to applicants that demonstrate integration of gender initiatives into their organization.

The Start Path Empodera program seeks to expand options for women entrepreneurs in Colombia and Peru and to integrate women in digital development, financial inclusion, commerce, and financial services. New economic and entrepreneurial opportunities can be strengthened to include more women, further reinforcing their equitable use of technology, addressing their underrepresentation in this industry , and creating opportunities for outreach and network building with other female entrepreneurs.

Companies may seek to target products or services aimed at indigenous, unbanked or unconnected populations and create innovative ways to establish credit for women. The majority of the world’s unbanked population is comprised of women. Women are more likely than men to lack credit history and the mobility to go to the bank. As such, financial technologies can play a large equalizing role, not only in terms of access to tools but also in terms of how financial products and services could be designed to respond to women’s needs. The CGAP Customer-Centric Guide is a collection of hands-on toolkits and experiments that help you design and deliver effective financial services for low-income customers.

Companies may seek to integrate digital literacy training in recruiting pipelines or offer holistic approaches to support digital literacy and leadership training that empowers women’s decision-making and reinforces learning on digital tools.

Companies could set HR requirements for 50% of all front-end or front-line employees to be women or 50% of all technical lead or board members to be women. A GSMA’s framework provides research on how to improve accessibility to women in digital services markets. Product teams could consider recruiting female agents to reach women in markets where they are more likely than men to feel comfortable interacting with other women or experience practical household or social constraints leaving their homes.

Companies more focused on research may integrate increased applicability towards women populations, such as establishing requirements for data collection and gender disaggregating market research findings and supporting greater attention towards gender audit and analysis through the distribution of products and services.

Finalists will join a network of other Colombia and Peru-based female entrepreneur grantees from each round of the competition that will continue to support each other beyond the end of the program.

  • Startups will gain access to training on topics including business model canvas and lean startup, design thinking, customer/user experience, entrepreneurial finance & raising capital, business model and pricing strategy, GTM sales and customer acquisition strategy, marketing, messaging, and content, and business operations - managing costs/expenses.
  • Mentorship from Mastercard industry experts from within the region.
  • Access to expert speaker series.
  • Supplemental online learning.
  • Program events and networking opportunities.
  • Access to diverse sources of funding for sustained growth.

The cohorts are scheduled to be held virtually, so there are no travel costs associated with attendance. If travel is required for any in-person events, the grant funding provided is intended to support participation.

We encourage all investors to contact us for partnership opportunities and connect the investment community to new and exciting entrepreneurs from the program cohort. Ideal investors may include impact venture funds to angels to corporate investors who see opportunities for innovation, diversity, and financial inclusion in their businesses.