A new way to Demo Day

Pitches From The ygap First Gens 2020 Cohort

The First Gens program supports the most ambitious, game-changing impact ventures led by migrants and refugees that are improving the lives of people living in disadvantage in Australia. 

Australia’s first compostable straw, a social enterprise cafe, a storytelling agency, an online marketplace for social enterprises were among the twelve ventures that were selected for the ygap First Gens 2020 cohort, in our first ever virtual accelerator program.

Instead of holding a face to face Demo Day to finish the program, we decided to change format, asking ventures to instead provide a pitch in video form; a resource they can continue to use into the future, and a more accessible way to culminate the program (Head here for more on why we’re rethinking Demo Days).

We’d like to congratulate these ventures for being resilient, brave and for staying the course during an especially challenging and uncertain year. Below are the video pitches from the 2020 cohort of First Gens so you can hear about the ventures and be inspired by the work they are doing, just like we have been.

You can also show your support by following them on their socials, telling others about their work, or connecting them to a potential customer, investor or supporter.

Watch the pitch videos below:

Marion Vigot, Mister Rye

Cynthia Wong, Empower2Free

Niv Avtar, Dinidae

Hawanatu Bangura, Mahawa Creative

Mateo Palacio Gomez and Haidar Alfallouji, Charity Bay

Jackie Colmar and Tracey Martinovich, Enso

Louisa Ong, Tilegne Therapy

Jack Wu, Tiny Tutors

Minerva Jimenez, Minjums

Belle To, The Impact Stylist

Layana Franco, Swap-a-Porter

For more information on First Gens, please contact: Kim Nguyen (First Gens program coordinator) at kim.nguyen@ygap.org.

COVID-19 and its impact on the Australian Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

COVID-19 and its impact on the Australian Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

Has COVID-19 caused any substantial changes to your operations? 

Some of the changes highlighted included: 

  • All services (place based programs, events and support, including partnership arrangements) now provided remotely 
  • Revenue and Funding challenges
  • Challenges fulfilling face to face commitments, speaking at events and conducting workshops
  • Increased workload
  • Focus on portfolio support much higher now, focus on capital preservation

Most significant changes your organisation has seen due to COVID-19

Other challenges included:

  • Supporting those on the ground to change to digital offerings, especially in areas where they don’t have internet.
  • Capacity of the team in between their own personal challenges while self-isolating and with no volunteers.
  • Entrepreneurs are not as digitally aware or knowledgeable as they need to be to pivot their offerings to a new marketplace or about government economic relief packages


We also asked about the most significant challenges that you see the ecosystem facing as a result of COVID. Some of the responses were:

  • The demand for services from the social system will be greater than ever but concerns that issues such as gender diversity and climate change will take a back seat, as attention is diverted to traditional economic stimulus.
  • Government stepping in and directing what the recovery should be (top-down approach).
  • Migrapreneurs might find it hard to get funding/traction 
  • Working from home is difficult and can be isolating and compounding other problems
  • Change in business model for those relying on face to face. 
  • Those most vulnerable falling through the cracks – also those who don’t engage online can get lost or forgotten.
  • Keeping our stakeholders and partners engaged and motivated. 
  • Ensuring the work we do is still relevant and not a bandaid in these challenging times.


We asked what are the biggest opportunities for ecosystem collaboration and support through Covid-19. Some of the responses were:

  • We need a strong and overwhelming voice that shows that social impact businesses can also provide the economic stimulus required to take us through the other side. 
  • Collaboration on large contracts as the government puts out initiatives. Too often these funding opportunities are dominated by big city firms that have no affinity with rural and regional areas but are able to convey confidence by their size, not necessarily their ability to deliver relevant and timely content.
  • Set up small bridge funds to support diverse founders whilst other funding is low. 
  • Keeping entrepreneurs engaged to reduce the effects of feeling isolated.  
  • Shifting to virtual delivery
  • Moving quickly to solve new problems and leveraging structural shifts in society and the economy 
  • Entrepreneurs are connecting with each other more and more often
  • Entrepreneurs are being supported to think outside the square and provide a different service model / offering
  • Entrepreneurs are becoming more tech savvy
  • Stakeholders are engaging more and being invited to more ‘meetings’

Launching First Gens 2.0 'Validate' Stage

First Gens 2.0 pre-accelerator welcomes 25 startups into the “VALIDATE” stage

Voicetech apps, artificial intelligence (AI), online marketplaces and story-telling software are some of the 25 startups that have been selected to progress to the “VALIDATE” stage of this year’s inaugural ‘First Gens 2.0’ pre-accelerator, a joint initiative by Catalysr and ygap in Melbourne.  

‘First Gens 2.0’ supports migrant and refugee entrepreneurs (“migrapreneurs”) and combines Catalysr’s award winning pre-accelerator model with ygap’s internationally acclaimed First Gens Program to bridge the gap between the ideation, validation and growth phases of an enterprise.

70 startups completed twelve weeks of the “IDEATE” stage comprising of masterclasses, mentoring and community events, culminating in a virtual pitching session which led to the selection of the top 25 startups to participate in “VALIDATE.” 

Launched on April 4th, “VALIDATE” consists of a startup bootcamp, weekly sprints and startups events, community events as well as mentoring and support with entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs). In response to the pandemic, the program is being run virtually via Zoom and a range of online tools. 

The EIRs are renowned industry experts who have been selected to assist the migrapreneurs with coaching, strategic thinking, problem solving and ad-hoc support. The EIR team includes: Pratibha Rai (product expert), Jeanette Cheah (co-founder of The Hacker Exchange, Anthonly Cabraal (Director at Enspiral Foundation), Winitha Bonney (Founder of Amina of Zaria) and Roberto Daniele (Founder at Changemakers’ lab). 

While our migrapreneurs face challenges that have been intensified as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, ygap and Catalysr will continue to back our migrapreneurs by providing a supportive community, sharing resources and opportunities so together, we can survive the challenges that lie ahead of us and work towards creating a better world for all. 

“Now more than ever, we need more problem solvers. We need more people fearlessly standing up to tackle the challenges we face presently and into the future. These 25 startups represent exactly that. They are rising to the challenge – the work they do, despite these difficult times we face, is very inspiring and I am super excited that we can continue to support them along their entrepreneurial journey.” – Adelide, First Gens Program Manager

“It has been incredible to see these migrapreneurs take on big challenges for the prosperity of Australia and the globe. We have had a very tough job to select the top 25 teams for this stage, some of whom have already launched their products and created value in their community. Especially given the Covid-19 crisis, I can’t wait to see the incredible work all these migrapreneurs will do to tackle directly and indirectly the challenges it poses for our health, work and home life, and economy more broadly” says Usman, CEO of Catalysr. 

For more information, please contact: Kim Nguyen (First Gens 2.0 program coordinator) at kim.nguyen@ygap.org.

Supporting diverse founders in Australia

Supporting diverse founders in Australia

ygap is and will continue to support diverse founders in Australia. We are here- backing local change.

Although COVID-19 has brought many shifts around the world, changing the way we work and the way our impact entrepreneurs do business, ygap continues to back local impact ventures to ensure they survive this crisis and the subsequent downturn. 

Whilst there is no precedent for what is happening at the moment, we understand that this pandemic is set to have a significant impact on small businesses and vulnerable populations, making ygap’s work, both now and in the long term, more important than ever.

We have been reaching out, talking to and listening to our alumni ventures to identify how we can best support them during this difficult time.

Now, we are eager to understand how our ecosystem partners across Australia who work across the migrant/ refugee and entrepreneurship space are coping and reacting to this crisis, to determine if and how we can best work together to tackle the challenges that arise. As a sector, we are facing rare circumstances that pose new challenges and we recognise the need to think in new ways about how to meaningfully respond. 

To help inform the design of our response and the role that we can play as organisations and ecosystem partners, we would value knowing what you believe are the priorities, gaps and opportunities for collaboration. This short survey will only take a few minutes, but provides you an opportunity to share your very important insights and perspectives.

We would also be happy to share insights from these survey findings with the wider ecosystem, once they become available. 

Undoubtedly, our work backing local impact ventures has and will change in many ways as we adopt new and virtual ways of working and living – but it continues. We have developed a Resiliency Tool Kit to help ventures prepare and ensure that their businesses survive in the face of unexpected shocks, such as a pandemic. We have also created a directory of “Resiliency in Action” of our ygap Australia and First Gens ventures showcasing how they are adapting and responding to the current situation.

In such uncertain times, we can only take each day as it comes. However, we know that if we unite to share our knowledge, skills and resources; together, we can rise to meet the challenges and support entrepreneurs, businesses and communities to not only survive but to thrive. 

Till next time, we will be right here. Backing local change.

First Gens team – Adelide and Kim. 

Do the survey

ygap’s yher Appeal - Empowering Women, Ending World Poverty.

ygap’s yher Appeal - Empowering Women, Ending World Poverty.

Opportunities should not be determined by your geography or gender. However, the reality is that two out of three girls are denied an education and of the available funding for businesses around the world, only 3% goes to ones founded by females.

The cherry on top of this disappointing collation of statistics for us was when the World Economic Forum recently released the fact that at this rate it will take 108 years to achieve gender parity and in the mean-time, the global economy is losing trillions of dollars every year.

Men and women are impacted differently by poverty, likewise, they respond differently when receiving an income - with women reinvesting 300% more into their families and communities than their male counterparts.

After spending the last ten years running over 45 accelerators around the world with a gender-neutral approach, our intention was not to discriminate. However, with recent research indicating that this “gender neutral” approach in the social sector underserves women in patriarchal societies - paradoxically, women were still missing out on opportunities.

Go figure.

So at ygap, instead of just talking about this injustice and gap in opportunities, and waiting for someone bigger than us to create this change, we did something about it by launching yher.

yher is a female-focused program that is specifically designed to find the most promising emerging female leaders in developing regions and empower them with access to training, mentorship and access to funding so that they can grow their social impact.

We knew that by investing in women, there would be a significant flow-on effect for societal change in their communities.

During the yher pilot phase in 2017-2018, our team received an overwhelming 847 applications confirming the demand for the program and we went on to support 63 emerging female leaders across Africa, the Pacific and South Asia addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

One of of the women who applied to our yher program was Muzalema Mwanza who had developed a social impact venture, Safe Motherhood Alliance, ensuring safe conditions for mothers and their babies at the time of childbirth.

With the SubSaharan region being the home of 50% of the world’s infant mortalities due to unsterile birthing environments, Muzalema recognised that these were preventable deaths in her community and she couldn’t simply stand by and allow them to happen.

With the development of her home birth kit, Muzalema has not only offered training and employment opportunities, she has also assisted in delivering over 1,000 babies. That’s one woman impacting over 1000 mothers and their babies, and she has only just begun her social impact journey towards a world free of avoidable deaths related to childbirth.

She had a solution to a local problem, all Muzalema needed was someone to find her, believe in her and back her. This is just one social impact entrepreneur’s story of the success that comes with backing local change, there are 453 more stories just like this at ygap.

Unanimously across every benchmark, nations that educate their women and girls end up being more successful in two ways - one being basic fairness and decency, the other being large social and economic returns.

It’s a no-brainer: empower women, end world poverty.

Support us in rolling out the global yher program, by donating before June 30th our cornerstone partner will triple the impact of your donation.

DONATE: ygap.org/yhercampaign

#WorldRefugeeDay - Recognising the Strength, Courage and Resilience.


#WorldRefugeeDay is an opportunity for all individuals, groups and organisations to take a moment to recognise the strength, courage and resilience of the millions of refugees around the world.

In 2018 we had the privilege of meeting an inspiring man by the name of Hedayet Osyan (pictured below), a refugee from Afghanistan whose long journey to Australia was full of horrific hurdles.

Hedayet participated in our First Gens Program where we saw his passion and strength in creating employment opportunities for other refugees and migrants through his successful and growing social impact venture - Nick's Tiling. 

"When I was in Afghanistan I hadn’t this freedom and in here I have everything. There’s massive opportunity for every people, there’s equality, there’s freedom and the life is really easy here.

"I’m really happy and I really appreciate the Australian Government, the Australian people who saved my life and I’m always trying very hard to give something back to Australian people, that’s my responsibility because they saved my life." 

As the human race evolves, we are unfortunately witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 68.5million people forcibly displaced around the world because of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.

This is three times the population of Australia.

Here in Australia, where 28% of our population is born overseas, we don’t do nearly enough to raise awareness of the strength of migrant and refugee entrepreneurship, nor do we encourage people from other countries to start ventures here, or help them develop skills to build wealth for themselves and the community through self-employment.

Multiculturalism is about diversity, which in turn is about better creativity and decision-making. In order to attract more innovative ideas and grow our nation, we need to share the stories of the migrant-led business, to inspire aspiring migrant entrepreneurs and the broader community.

This is where a program like First Gens step in.


One of the most beautiful moments for us in facilitating the First Gens program for migrant and refugee-led social impact ventures, is when we have the privilege of witnessing a group of individuals from all different cultures, backgrounds, ages and genders, sitting together under one roof collaborating on how to best approach some of the local challenges here in the country.

Australia’s biggest point of difference in the global arena is its multiculturalism. When we all realise that embracing migrants and refugees isn’t just the right thing to do, but it is also a competitive strength in global business, innovation and entrepreneurship, that is the day when the local communities will win and the world will be inspired to unite as one human race.


ygap Newsletter - July 2018

ygap Newsletter
July 2018

“When we talk about impacting a life, we mean creating a job for a mother so she can feed her family. We mean giving a child an education so they have a chance to fulfil their dreams. We mean improving not only their life but their entire community’s future.

Each one of the 586,389 lives that our nearly 400 entrepreneurs have impacted means entire communities have been transformed – the impact goes beyond what we can measure.

We created our model based on empowering local leaders, as they understand the problem better than we ever could. That is why we are so effective and impactful.

Our local leaders have local solutions to local problems. All they need is someone to believe in them and to back them.”

– Manita Ray, CEO

ygap Newsletter - June 2018

ygap Newsletter
June 2018

At ygap, we always tend to think about how can we do better and what’s next, however, sometimes it’s essential to take a moment, to pause and reflect on the incredible impact your support has created. To date, thanks to your support, we have backed 397 impact ventures, through 35 social accelerator programs, which have significantly improved the lives of 586,389 people!