Sequoia India Launches Spark Fellowship for India & SEA, and Expanded Programs to Support Women Entrepreneurs

We believe it’s time to change the game for women entrepreneurs. Gender diversity is good for any society and every economy. Different perspectives, experiences and points of view help drive innovation.

Team Sequoia India & Southeast Asia (now known as Peak XV)

Published July 25, 2021

We believe it’s time to do more to support female founders. Every step we take compounds in impact. We are excited to launch the Spark Fellowship for women entrepreneurs in India and Southeast Asia.

Gender diversity is good for any society and every economy. Different perspectives, experiences and points of view help drive innovation.

Just 12% of venture-backed startups in India and 20% in ASEAN have at least one female founder, as of 2020, according to data sourced from Tracxn and Crunchbase.

Our Sequoia Spark initiative for female founders in India and Southeast Asia is one such effort to spark a change. By encouraging more women to start companies, we hope to increase the top of the funnel for all venture firms, including ours.

We ran several surveys over the last year to ask female founders what they need help on to help give shape to our program. The response was clear: greater access to knowledge, network, mentorship and capital.

Today, we’re excited to announce we are expanding the Sequoia Spark initiative to do just that. We are thrilled to be launching a fellowship program for female founders that’s supported by dedicated, immersive mentorship, and a broader set of sessions and events that are open to women across the region. Our goal is to encourage more women to build companies, and to inspire more women to become entrepreneurs.


The Spark Fellowship


Sequoia India will offer a $100,000 fellowship to 15 women entrepreneurs per year in India and Southeast Asia whose startups are at the prelaunch or pre-PMF (product-market fit) stage. Recipients will receive structured one-on-one mentorship with a senior Sequoia India investment advisor, who will work closely with them over a 12-month period. The $100,000 grant has no strings, no equity nor any convertible note for Sequoia.

Every recipient will also be matched with a startup founder from Sequoia India’s portfolio, who will serve as a founder mentor. We are thrilled that many wonderful founders across India and Southeast Asia have enthusiastically agreed to be Spark mentors.

Spark Fellowship recipients will also have access to select Surge sessions, and hands-on support from Sequoia India portfolio specialists, across hiring, legal, finance, product, technology and marketing.

The first Spark Fellowship program launches in November 2021. Applications will close on September 15.


Expanded Programs for the Wider Ecosystem


We are also expanding our program to offer more sessions and events to the wider community of women entrepreneurs across the region. This includes:

  • Spark Talks: A monthly series of webinars with inspiring women in leadership roles across the globe.
  • Spark Studios: Curated small-group sessions with Sequoia India specialists who’ll offer practical advice across hiring, product, technology, finance, marketing and more.
  • Spark Coffee Chats: A commitment by Sequoia India and Southeast Asia investment advisory team members to spend over 250 hours, per year, for one-one-one ‘coffee chat’ sessions with female founders on top of mind business issues. At this point in time, these will be conducted over zoom.

Creating a more welcoming and nurturing environment for female founders is the need of the hour. We see some green shoots, but a lot more needs to be done. One third of the startups in the current cohort of Surge, for example, have at least one woman founder, with 10 women in the cohort overall. This is a start and we aspire to keep improving.

If you’re a female founder, or aspire to become one, and would like more information on the Spark Fellowship or on our wider set of programs, please click here.

We want to invite and encourage other members of the investing community to join hands with us on the Spark fellowship program through an ‘open architecture’ model. We are excited to invite angel investors who would like to invest money in these startups, alongside the fellowship, and work with us towards a common goal of helping female founders succeed.

Together, we can spark a change.