Apple has announced a new initiative aimed at creating opportunities for app-driven businesses owned or led by women, offering an 'Entrepreneur Camp' that involves intensive technology training, specialised support and ongoing mentoring.
The program, which is set to begin in January 2019, is now open for applications, with applying businesses required to be female-founded, co-founded or led, have at least one woman in the development team, and have a working app or prototype.
"Apple is committed to helping more women assume leadership roles across the tech sector and beyond," said Tim Cook, Apple CEO. "We're proud to help cultivate female leadership in the app development community with the new Entrepreneur Camp, and we're inspired both by the incredible work that's already happening, and what's sure to come."
The pilot cohort of the program will include 10 companies, but should it prove successful, Entrepreneur Camp will hold sessions on a quarterly basis, with 20 app companies accepted for each round. Companies will have to opportunity to send three attendees to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California for a two-week immersive program. The course will include one-to-one code-level assistance with with Apple engineers, sessions on design, technology and App Store marketing, as well as ongoing guidance and support from an Apple Developer representative. Participating companies will also get two tickets to the following year's WWDC, Apple's annual developer conference.
"This is a program that matters," said Gina Bianchini, founder and CEO of Mighty Networks. "The new Entrepreneur Camp says Apple wants to invest its expertise in a different, richer, more diverse range of app developers and product experts in a meaningful way, and that is a big deal for the industry."
Although they make up more than half of new computer science graduates, a recent survey by tech recruiting company HackerRank found that female software developers over 35 were 3.5 times more likely to hold junior positions compared to their male peers. Female entrepreneurs also struggle to obtain funding and support in the VC landscape, with female-led businesses receiving just $1.9bn in funding in 2017, compared to $83.1bn for men.
Despite these additional obstacles faced by women, statistics show that women-led tech businesses are prospering. Women-owned businesses are growing more than two times faster than the US national average, with women-led tech statups delivering a 35 per cent higher return on investment than tech startups led by men.