Women 2.0 Spins Out, Expands Founder Labs Program To New York

An organization that aims to diversify and strengthen the pool of successful startup founders in tech, Women 2.0, today announced that it will spin out its mobile focused Founder Labs pre-incubator program as a standalone entity, and expand it from San Francisco to New York City this May.

Women 2.0 and Founder Labs founder, Shaherose Charania, told TechCrunch:

“We want to change the ‘founder force.’ There’s a pretty diverse work force here. But the founder force looks kind of homogenous. Founder Labs will create teams working in mobile that are diverse, in terms of experience levels, gender and ethnicity.

We want people not to just create apps, but mobile health, payment, and smart grid [technologies]. I don’t think Silicon Valley or New York City startups and investors have gone into those spaces enough, yet.”

Lately, NYC has seen an influx of funds, incubators, co-work spaces, and other programs to support and inspire the formation of technology startups here, including from: Accel Partners, General Assemb.ly, HackNY, Turing Fellows, TechStars, DreamIt Ventures, and others.

[Ed’s note: TechCrunch’s Disrupt NYC 2011 event is part of this increasingly crowded ecosystem.] Is there room for more, really?

An adviser to Founder Labs, principal of Union Square Ventures, Fred Wilson, opined in an e-mail:

“Founders Labs is focused on two underserved situations in the NYC market: the first is pre-accelerator mentoring coaching and assistance. Think of [it] as what you do before Y Combinator or Techstars. The second is teams with women founders. Aileen Lee’s post on TC explained why women founders are growing in importance. I could not have said it better myself.

I also see it as something like Startup Weekend, [because Founder Labs] really focuses at the very beginning [of a business]… We need more of that sort of thing. The format is different, longer, more intense. I think it is serving a real need in the market.”

Wilson’s involvement with Founder Labs is personal, he noted. He and his wife, entrepreneur and investor Joanne Wilson, are advocates for female entrepreneurship, especially in technology.

Charania noted that Founder Labs will not have a hard-and-fast affirmative action policy for admitting entrepreneurs to its 5-week program. It’s based on merit first, she said. However, she plans to recruit well beyond top-tier tech schools and well-known hacker and startup networks, to ensure a diverse pool of talent.

Here’s what Founder Labs will look for in New York as they have done in earlier programs in San Francisco: applicants of any age with five years of relevant professional, startup or technology experience; applicants who haven’t yet built their mobile product, or become too attached to their business concept; engineers, designers, product and business talent (about half of those admitted to Founder Labs are engineers); a group of men and women in equal numbers willing to form teams and collaborate.

Golden Seeds, and Union Square Ventures will provide space for some of Founder Labs NYC events. The program will admit fifteen prospective co-founders, and run from May 21 — June 29, 2011. Applications are due by April 20, 2011. The program costs $755 for five weeks of course work, events and ongoing mentorship from startup and mobile technology thought leaders including:

…and others to be announced.