Jess Erickson stands out in the Berlin startup crowd – and that’s not just because she is a woman. It’s her big ambitions, impressive CV and dedication to her cause that draws attention. After working as 6WunderKinder’s PR manager in the peak of its hype, moving to PR agency Four Sektor and then building up the Berlin branch of education network General Assembly, she decided to pour all her energy into her passion: expanding her own startup, Berlin Geekettes.
Berlin Geekettes is a non-profit network that pushes for gender balance in the tech industry. In a bid to encourage more women to found companies and work in startups, the network organises monthly meet-ups, features a Geekette of the Week in its blog and hosts workshops teaching everything from coding to how to make good hires.
Now, Berlin Geekettes has landed a new partnership with Deutsche Telekom to provide women with the tools and resources they need to work in the tech industry and found companies. The collaboration aims to foster more opportunities for women by creating jobs, running mentoring and education programmes and hosting networking events. The telecommunications company will provide Berlin Geekettes with space for events, a valuable network and funding to allow its core team to work full time.
This isn’t Deutsche Telekom’s first foray into the Berlin startup scene; it’s already established itself in the industry by launching its own incubator, Hubraum, and a new accelerator programme, plus providing funding via its investment arm, T-Venture.
Marion Schick, Head of HR at Telekom, said: “We need more women and female founders in the tech scene. From collaborating with the Berlin Geekettes, I anticipate an exciting energy for Telekom’s entrepreneurship. Connecting our employees with female experts from the digital scene will bring a new atmosphere to our company and promote our innovative culture.”
Berlin Geekettes will also launch Berlin’s first all women in tech summit in autumn this year, plus a Hamburg base is currently being set up. Next up are Cologne and Munich, with Erickson hoping those branches will launch in the next couple of years.
Together with her new cofounder, Denise Philipp, the former COO of Berlin Geekettes, Erickson has identified individuals in the Berlin community who champion women in technology. They’ve elected an advisory board that includes Caroline Drucker (Etsy), Erin Grueber (Google) and Ilya Levtov (ex-Deutsche Telekom, now working on his own startup Qupcake).
Erickson told us of her future plans for Berlin Geekettes: “In a perfect world, I’d love to build an accelerator programme for women. I have had a great time helping build an educational platform for Hubraum as well as vetting mentors for StartupBootcamp in its early days. I’d like to take Berlin Geekettes to the next level and find ways to fund and train women-led startups via us. It would have to be under a different entity, but it’s something I’m open to exploring.”
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