BDO on board for SBE’s female business scale-up support initiative

22 May 2023 3 min. read
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Professional services firm BDO has signed up for two new initiatives to support Australian female-founded businesses entering the critical scale-up stage, an SBE response to chronic under-funding.

Female business support organisation SBE Australia has launched a new accelerator program aimed at women-led businesses entering the critical ‘scale-up’ phase, with accounting and consulting firm BDO on board as an anchor partner.

In addition, SBE has also established an advisory services marketplace to connect such businesses with key services providers, citing recent research into private sector funding as a catalyst for the new initiatives.

BDO on board for SBE’s female business scale-up support initiative

Conducted by Deloitte, the research found that less than 4 percent of start-up funding went to female-founded companies in the five years to 2021, with that figure dropping to under 1 percent last financial year. This is despite estimates that of the almost 350 businesses supported by SBE and two other major female-focused investor groups over the past decade, those still active generated upwards of $1 billion in economic activity in 2021/22.

“What that research did was illuminate a gaping hole in support for funding women-led businesses in general,” said SBE CEO Nicole Cook. “It was jarring. We stepped back and questioned why, when so many promising women-led businesses exist, are they not getting funded? A major finding was that although support for early-stage businesses through accelerators and grants is fairly strong, there is a cohort in the middle that just don’t have the critical support they need.”

Cook describes this largely neglected group as those that fall between the early and mature business stages, otherwise classified as ‘scale-ups’.

In response, SBE has added a new ‘Elevate’ accelerator to its existing schedule specifically targeted at female-led companies with a proven viable product and primed for rapid growth. Participants will be supported by a network of industry experts, advisors and investors in devising and executing their strategic global growth plans.

For BDO’s part, the professional services firm will offer mentoring, support and resources to the Elevate founders in the areas of accounting, tax and consulting. Designed to meet the unique needs of businesses in their scale-up phase, BDO will also support the new Advisory Collective services referral initiative, which has to date signed up around 100 providers across various domains, including those working in areas such as legal, strategy, public relations, coaching and recruitment.

“Partially for BDO this partnership is about having an active voice on the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity in business,” commented Tim Aman, BDO’s Sydney-based national financial services lead and global head of the Fintech practice. “Commercially though, if we do a good job of supporting women-led scale-ups, we know we can have a positive, long-ranging and historic impact on how the Australian business ecosystem operates.”

SBE was established in Australia in 2012, and has in the decade since supported hundreds of female-led start-ups through its various workshops and programs, including more than 100 which have now reached the scale-up phase. According to the non-profit, SBE alumni – which includes Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins among other success stories – have together raised over $2 billion in capital, and so far recorded 17 IPO and sales exits.