Hundreds of women entrepreneurs were falsely informed that they had been successful in their application to a federal government grant program after an error saw a congratulatory email sent to all applicants to the program, rather than those who had received grants.
Monday morning, the candidates for the second round of the competition for the Industry department Boost women founders program received an email stating that they were successful and inviting them to re-apply for the next step.
But a few hours later, they then received a follow-up email saying they were unsuccessful.
“I’m sorry to inform you that you received an incorrect notification this morning regarding your expression of interest from Boosting Female Founders. I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this caused,” the email said.
A number of program applicants have said they have received these emails and feel “devastated” by the confusion and angry at the generic apology email sent by the department.
The $ 52.2 million Boosting Female Founders program provides grants ranging from $ 25,000 to $ 480,000 to startups founded by women to expand into national and global markets.
The first round of the program saw 2,200 expressions of interest, with 51 companies sharing $ 12 million. More than $ 11.5 million is on offer under the second round of the program.
A spokesperson for the Department of Industry confirmed that all applications for the expression of interest stage of the grant program were incorrectly informed that they had been accepted.
“Unsuccessful EOI applicants in the second round of the Boosting Female Founders initiative have been wrongly informed that their application will proceed to the second stage of the application process,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.
“The applicants concerned were quickly informed that they had been misinformed. The ministry understands that this will have disappointed a large number of candidates and apologizes to those concerned. The department is reviewing its processes so that this error does not recur in the future. “
Debias.AI co-founder Laura Summers was one of the applicants who were wrongly told they had passed the first step of the grant process. She said her team had already started preparing her application for the next step before sending the correction email.
She said it was even more disappointing given the difficulties of running a business during a pandemic.
“We find that networking is more difficult, building visibility is more difficult, testing ideas is more difficult. Budgets are very, very tightly controlled or non-existent for non-essential spending, ”Summers told InnovationAus.
“I have had a conference postponed three times in the past few months. So in this context, this kind of stuff is even more disheartening than it would be otherwise. “
Hearsay.io founder Pip Stocks was another founder who was wrongly told her candidacy was accepted and was “devastated” by the confusion.
“All founders work hard to launch their startup, and funding is essential for scale-up. But imagine you only have a 3% chance of getting that financing. And the rest of the population has a 97% chance, ”Ms. Stocks told InnovationAus.
“Then once you think there’s an opportunity, it’s quickly taken away from you. It was a devastating feeling.
WBGS Global founder Yasmin Grigaliunas was also trapped and said the government‘s “terrible communications” had made the situation worse.
“[The department] missed an opportunity to appropriate the error by using the “copy and paste” model. A lot of people were dumped today, I bet. We can do better, ”Ms. Grigaliunas wrote on Twitter.
The online publication Women’s Agenda was also told that it had passed the grant stage, but was later told that was wrong.
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