Female founders and startup leaders are to be prioritised on a Scottish trade mission to this year’s Web Summit conference in Lisbon.

Twenty founders and startup leaders will get the chance to visit one of the world’s largest tech events in the Portuguese capital during a week-long stay in November.

Entrepreneurs are being encouraged to apply now for the Foras programme, put together by industry in partnership with the Scottish Government and Scottish Development International.

Fifteen women and five men will be chosen for the trip from 11 to 18 November, following successful recent visits to Silicon Valley, Helsinki and New York.

Ana Stewart, who led the Pathways review, which was focused was on boosting the number of female entrepreneurs, welcomed the commitment.

She said: “I am pleased to support such an impactful initiative, that focuses on action and aligns with the Pathways principles. By connecting and collaborating, women gain access to a wealth of diverse perspectives, experiences, and support. Pairing this with world-class business insights creates an empowering ecosystem where our emerging business leaders can thrive.”

Web Summit is one of the largest tech conferences in the world, offering a diverse range of expert speakers, panels, and workshops, and delivering world-class insights and actionable advice.

This year’s event will attract over 70,000 attendees, and provides a unique platform to showcase ideas, products, and services to an international audience of industry leaders, investors, and potential collaborators, fostering connections that can fuel growth, secure funding, and forge strategic business partnerships. 

In line with the Pathways report, commissioned by the Scottish Government and co-authored by Ana Stewart and Scotland’s ‘chief entrepreneur’ Mark Logan, the programme will have a strong focus on addressing the barriers and challenges women face in entrepreneurship, including mentorship, peer-to-peer connectivity, access to support organisations, fundraising best practices, and investor-facing opportunities. 

Foras is welcoming corporate sponsors who support growing businesses and whose values align with the vision of the project. Chartered accountants Johnston Carmichael have already pledged support to the trip to enable the participation of the partners and children of applicants, based on learnings from past programmes and the Pathways report.

Leah Hutcheon, CEO and Co-Founder at Appointedd, who attended the Foras programme to New York in April 2023, said:  “It was honestly one of the best things I have ever done for my business. It was a fantastic chance to make connections, both in and out of the cohort, to start to think bigger, take a step back and look at my business holistically and see it through the eyes of others.”

The Foras 2023 Lisbon Programme will run between the 11th-18th of November 2023, and was designed by Foras co-founders Dec McLaughlin, Nick Murray and Carolina Melendez, who work with local tech startups and business support organisations in Scotland.

Carolina Melendez, Foras co-founder, said: “After attending Web Summit last year, and building a strong international network of women in tech and global leaders at the conference, I knew we needed to bring the Foras model to Lisbon. The term ‘Foras’ means to go forth, to look outwards, to meet, and to create a forum for discussion, and that’s at the root of what we aim to achieve at Web Summit.

Foras co-founder Nick Murray said: “Gender inequality is a societal problem that demands a collective responsibility to understand and address. Men play a vital role in contributing to a more equitable and thriving business environment for everyone, so it was important that we reflected this dynamic in our cohort’.”