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entrepreneurs priyanka ashraf and kyal agraval

Priyanka Ashraf, founder of The Creative Co-Operative (CCO) and Anyone Can with Cohort #2 winner Dr Kyal Agraval. Source: supplied

Dr Kyal Agraval wins Pitch Night at Australia’s first community program for BIWOC start-ups

Dr Kyal Agraval’s healthcare platform and Rachel Castelino’s prebiotic tonic Blume have taken home the top prizes at Australia’s first community start-up program 100% by and for bla(c)k women and women of colour.

At the Pitch Night this week of Anyone Can’s Cohort #2, the entrepreneurs presented their ideas in front of investors, stakeholders, judges including Bec Milgrom, Rupal Ismin, Adelide Mutinda and Caroline Tran.

As the winner, Dr Kyal Agraval took home a cash prize of $10,000 along with a six-month subscription to Sydney Knowledge Hub co-working space.

“We’re excited to have built a platform that facilitates timely access for patients to great healthcare,” Dr Agraval said. “This grant awarded to us greatly assists in advancing our vision, and subsequently improving the patient experience through the healthcare system. Congratulations to Priyanka and her team for creating a warm, dynamic and collegiate space for this community of inspirational BIWOC founders.”

Runner-up Rachel Castelino, too, received a cash prize of $2,500.

“The Anyone Can program has proved invaluable in helping me articulate my story and get feedback from other women as I transition from just an idea to achieving scale,” she noted. “I’m really looking forward to growing my company with the new skills and network of incredible women that I’ve gained from this program.”

Launched by The Creative Co-Operative (CCO) and sponsored by private investment company Tripple, Anyone Can is funded by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources through the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Grant Round 3.

Cohort #2 consisted of 30 BIWOC startup founders who were selected from over 260 applicants. The eight-week program provided start-up education by and for BIWOC founders to navigate the ins and outs of the startup ecosystem, with the aim of normalising access and advancement of BIWOC within the sector.

On Pitch Night, the six finalists of Cohort #2 to make presentations spanned numerous fields like Medtech, consumer and lifestyle, agriculture, health, and wellness.

“I’m still on a high from Pitch Night, feeling so inspired by the amazing BIWOC founders who showed ambition, grit, determination and creativity over the past 8-weeks of doing the program,” said Priyanka Ashraf, founder of CCO and Anyone Can.

pitch night of anyone can
Pitch Night of Anyone Can. Source: supplied

“Anyone Can wouldn’t be successful in its mission without the support of our partners and investors who believe in the work that we do and see value in supporting BIWOC founders to shift the needle in the Australian start-up ecosystem.”

With #Cohort 3 still accepting expressions of interest, Ms Ashraf adds that CCO still has the “ambitious” goal of providing $700 million in funding to BIWOC within the next decade to “level the playing field for women who are disproportionately impacted by the effects of intergenerational inequality.”

“Anyone Can is one of the avenues we are leveraging and offering in order to hit that goal while tearing down the range of systemic barriers including lack of awareness of and access to funding opportunities and lack of mentoring opportunities for BIWOC,” she added.

Expressions of Interest are still open for Cohort #3 of Anyone Can and will close at the beginning of October. You can submit an application here.

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READ MORE: 30 unicorns by 2030: Victoria govt backs upcoming tech startups

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Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea L Nath is a Sydney-based writer and editor. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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