Supporting high-tech female entrepreneurs through incubators and accelerators : an evaluative study
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- Master Thesis 
Given the massive underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship and the tech sector as well as the challenges female entrepreneurs are frequently cited to face, this thesis evaluates how effectively business incubators and accelerators support high-tech female entrepreneurs. This study is conducted in the setting of a multinational enterprise software corporation and its incubation and acceleration program. Each program’s effectiveness in supporting female entrepreneurs is judged on the basis of systematic hypotheses-testing through both interview and survey data, complemented with adequate secondary data. The preconceived hypotheses focus on training and education, access to capital, networking, and work-life balance. First, this study finds that both the incubator and the accelerator provide substantial support to female entrepreneurs despite the differences in program goals, entrepreneurs targeted, and mechanisms used. The results show that the programs are successful, yet to varying degrees, in leveling knowledge deficiencies, increasing the chances of obtaining capital, and opening up previously inaccessible networks. Despite the accelerator’s larger and tangible impacts on venture development and success, it comes at the expense of an intensified conflict between work and personal life or family duties. Second, by exploring the underlying mechanisms that result in specific program experiences and impacts, this study highlights the tradeoffs that need to be considered when designing an incubator or accelerator dedicated to inclusion and support for female entrepreneurs: Should programs strive for homogeneous or heterogeneous groups of entrepreneurs? Should mentors have corporate work or startup experience? Should programs be driven by the pursuit of a mission or by business interests? Irrespective of that, the key to success is involving diverse individuals who are both motivated to work with and dedicated to support female and other underrepresented entrepreneurs. Once an egalitarian environment is created the gender of an entrepreneur fades into the background even though women’s needs and concerns should by explicitly taken care of. Third, this study shows that supporting female entrepreneurs contributes to driving change in high-tech entrepreneurship by leveling the playing field and becomes a business opportunity for established firms. Based on this study, future researchers should focus on exploring and testing the support mechanisms that really make an impact and more systematically evaluate incubation and acceleration outcomes both for entrepreneurs and host organizations.