Starting her own software company and cofounding a nonprofit organization for women in wireless has kept Veronika Sonsev, a 2005 graduate of Wharton’s East Coast EMBA program, pretty busy in the past few years. However, she really wanted to do more to help women founders and recently launched an accelerator to do just that.
Announced at the end of December, Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) is the first startup accelerator and mentorship-driven program designed for women-founded companies in mobile technology. Startups in the three-month accelerator will receive $18,000 in funding, free office space, product development and design support, mobile-marketing promotions, and access to mentors, funders and advisors. In exchange, WIM will receive a 6% equity stake in each company.
Already, the group has attracted significant press attention with recent interviews on NPR and articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch.
“I think we hit a nerve because everyone sees the needs for this type of accelerator,” says Sonsev, who launched WIM with Deborah Jackson and Kelly Hoey.
“We’re really excited and hope all of the publicity gets us applicants and sponsors and that people see how important this is,” she says. “If we get a great class of candidates – women who previously didn’t think accelerators were places for them – then it’s all worth it because it’s so critical for the business environment for more women to start companies.”
As for her own startup, Sonsev left her position at Jumptap about a year ago to launch inSparq, a software company offering referral marking solutions for online reatailers. “We just went live with our first customers and it’s going great. We have more customer interest than we can support,” she says, noting that she connected with several of her investors through the Wharton network.
“The Wharton community has been very valuable to me. When you’re an entrepreneur without a startup history or a strong technical background, having that extra credential and network is very helpful,” she says.
Appreciating the value of networks, Sonsev continues to lend her leadership skills to Women in Wireless, which began as a committee within a trade organization, but with the assistance of Sonsev branched out to become its own group.
Its goal, she says, is to empower women leaders in mobile and wireless media through educational programs, mentoring, networking, and events. The organization also provides women the tools and network they need to start their own businesses.
“We hope in the future that we don’t need things like an accelerator for women and that women are starting companies and getting funding at the same rate as men. But for that to happen, someone has to set the example so that there are enough people out there to be resources and role models for the women coming behind them,” she says.