Richard Branson, the billionaire businessman behind everything from record stores to space travel, wants to help Australia’s women entrepreneurs find their perfect match.
His not-for-profit foundation Virgin Unite is teaming up with Australian entrepreneurial support group Rare Birds to launch a new mentoring program for businesswomen.
The program aims to have 500 women entrepreneurs matched with mentors within the next two years.
Rare Birds founder Jo Burston says the entrepreneurs can seek confidential advice on the good, bad and ugly parts of their business.
“It’s an intrinsic, tacit knowledge transfer between people who are experienced and got the war wounds and the ones that are going into battle,” she told AAP.
Rare Birds was founded in 2014 by Ms Burston, a serial entrepreneur who has set up eight businesses, with the aim of inspiring one million women entrepreneurs around the globe.
She credits mentors with giving her invaluable advice on a range of issues from the importance of knowing balance sheets inside out through to how to stay ahead of rivals.
“When it’s really, really difficult and when I think I’m really stuck or hitting a wall, that’s the person I go to,” she said.
“What we know is when an entrepreneur has a safe place to talk and a safe place to discuss problems and challenges with a person who has previously experienced that, the success rates for the entrepreneur are accelerated.”
Rare Birds Mentoring is open to entrepreneurs with existing business ventures.
Applicants will be asked about their business, where they are in their career, personal details and key challenges.
A high-tech algorithm, similar to those used by dating websites, will analyse the data and match entrepreneurs with a mentor.
The algorithm was developed by Rare Birds in conjunction with Virgin Unite, which uses a similar version to help entrepreneurs through the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.
“This partnership with Rare Birds is a fantastic way to inspire and mentor women and help make a promising business a truly successful one,” Virgin Unite boss Jean Oelwang said.
The program has already received 137 applications from entrepreneurs eager to find their perfect match among a pool of mentors, who include corporate executives through to successful startup businessmen and women.
Mentors and entrepreneurs are matched for a year, with data collected along the way to make sure the relationship is working.
After 12 months, entrepreneurs can opt to continue the relationship or switch to a new mentor if they need advice on a fresh set of challenges.