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The CEOs leading this year’s Ready Set Raise companies. (FFA Photo)

Female Founders Alliance is back with its second accelerator cohort as the Seattle-based organization looks to help another round of female-led startups grow their businesses and land funding.

Eight companies from across the country working in various industries made the cut this year, beating out nearly 400 other applicants for the “Ready Set Raise” program. To participate in the program, each company needs a female or non-binary CEO.

The early-stage startups will spend four weeks remote, and two weeks in Seattle, where they will pitch at an Investor Showcase and Demo Night Oct. 16-17. FFA provides childcare — one child per company — for the two weeks in Seattle.

“We created a program that is equally or more selective and value-adding than the top accelerators nationally, but consciously designed for women and non-binary founders,” Leslie Feinzaig, founder and CEO of FFA, said in a statement. “I feel privileged to introduce the outstanding group of companies that were selected for this second edition of Ready Set Raise.”

FFA also announced a partnership with Microsoft for Startups, which will provide up to $120,000 in Azure credits to Ready Set Raise participants, along with other mentoring and access to Microsoft partners.

FFA initially started as a private Facebook group of women who wanted to help support female founders and entrepreneurs. It now has 500 members since launching in 2017 and graduated its first Ready Set Raise class this past September.

The organization is a social purpose corporation, a type of profit corporation the state of Washington created in 2012, and is funded primarily through corporate partners.

FFA doesn’t take equity from companies participating in the program. However, it asks startups to grant pro rata rights: the opportunity to invest up to $200,000 in a future round, at a 20 percent discount from the lead investor’s terms in the round.

“We want you to succeed and we’re betting our whole program on just 8-12 of you each year! It is important to us that participants also put some skin in the game,” FFA says in its FAQ. “We want to know that you value our in-kind investment and that you want us to be successful, too.”

This past January, FFA partnered with WeWork Labs and raised an undisclosed investment from a group of backers that includes Seattle-area angel investors such as Sarah Imbach and Dennis Joyce.

Last week it partnered with Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs for the FFA Founder Challenge, a new initiative welcomes any entrepreneur to test a hypothesis within 30 days.

According to AllRaise, 12 percent of U.S. venture dollars went to teams with a female founder in 2018, and 11 percent of U.S. venture capitalists are women.

Here are the participating Ready Set Raise companies, with descriptions from each startup:

  • Echo Echo: AI-powered tools for podcasters. CEO Alina Serebryany, Oakland, Calif.
  • Give InKind: Coordinating support through major life events. CEO Laura Malcolm, Seattle, Wash.
  • Honistly: A new class of financial instruments to minimize impact of short-term cash needs. CEO Betsy Tong, Portland, Ore.
  • Juicebox It: Modernizing erotica with a chatbot that is arousing AND educational. CEO Brianna Rader, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Panty Drop: A personalized intimates shopping experience for women sizes XS-6XL. CEO Julie Arsenault, Reno, Nevada
  • The Labz: A collaborative platform that protects and memorializes creative content development in real-time. CEO Farah Allen, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Tougher: Functional, well-fitting workwear for women in the skilled trades. CEO Stacey Gose, Corvallis, Ore.
  • Wheyward Spirit: A sustainable farm-to-flask spirit made from excess whey. CEO Emily Darchuk, Eugene, Ore.
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