USAID and Mastercard partnered to develop a business accelerator program for early stage women owned tech entrepreneurs across Colombia, Perú and Ecuador known as Start Path Empodera, based on Mastercard’s global Start Path accelerator. An accelerator is a business program that supports early stage companies through mentoring, education and financing. Start Path Empodera is Start Path’s first gender focused program and the only gender focused accelerator in Colombia, Perú, and designed to provide women in Fintech with female focused acceleration support. USAID/Mastercard supported four cohorts of female founders representing 40 technology companies across Colombia, Perú, and Ecuador. These small businesses ranged from offering a digital platform to support agriculture chain actors to providing credit to small business fashion designers, to financial education support to youth with an average of 14 full time employees per company. Each entrepreneur received technical assistance, mentorship, specialized workshop content, business networking opportunities, individual grants of $35,000 USD to advance gender initiatives (workplace equity, products/services for women, and female leadership) leadership), media opportunities, and an opportunity to pitch their services to investors at a demo day networking event in January 2022.

Since then, a majority of Start Path Empodera entrepreneurs have grown their businesses- most businesses are profitable. Their businesses have also attracted greater visibility and customers leading to capital investments, and they have raised the profile of women in fintech most notably by creating and leading the only women in fintech network (mujeres en fintech) in Colombia.


Start Path Empodera set out to build the capacity of women-led early-stage technology startups to a) scale their enterprises; b) bring to market products/services that serve women and other underserved consumers; c) raise their individual profile across the industry as a model for aspiring female entrepreneurs, and; d) ultimately attract private investment as part of Start Path Empodera. The Start Path Empodera study assessed the following:

1) Business growth: Business growth due to grant funding, mentorships, business connections, and skill building offered by Start Path Empodera.

350,700+ new active customers 6-months after the program ended. (25 respondents) / 52% of businesses are profitable 6-months after the program ended (13/25 respondents) / 40 new full-time employees (28 of which are women) at the end of the program. (30 respondents) / 100% of endline survey respondents said the program met or exceeded expectations, with a 90 net promoter score (30 out of 40 respondents).

2) Creating and sustaining a support network for aspiring women entrepreneurs: As a result of the Start Path program, participants created the first of its kind industry association for women tech entrepreneurs, mujeres en fintech, in Colombia.

Women interviewed expressed feeling and increase in confidence and self-worth because of the program fostered a community of like-minded women / Women interviewed expressed feeling empowerment because of the course mixture of women leadership and soft skill courses matched with technical skill building courses.

3) Attracting private investment: Gaining greater visibility and understanding on how to attract investors and seek additional business investments because of Start Path Empodera.

52% received additional investments 6 months after the program ended (13/25 respondents) / 80% saw a moderate to substantial increase in network and access to investors, companies, mentors, and individuals at the end of the program (24/30 respondents)

This study aims to identify robust outcomes that resulted from the Start Path Empodera buy-in.

You can also access this accompanying slide deck with key outcomes from the report.