Accelerator Programs for Women EntrepreneursRieva Lesonsky
Are you a woman entrepreneur leading a company with the potential for rapid growth? Want to learn how to take your business to the next level (and get financing while you’re at it)? These three accelerator programs for women-led businesses can help.
MergeLane is an accelerator program for high-potential women-led companies nationwide. The program takes place in Boulder, Colorado, for 12 weeks; however, one nice thing for entrepreneurs with commitments is that all but three weeks of this program can be completed virtually, so you can stay close to home most of the time. MergeLane accepts applicants from a wide variety of industries, including technology, consumer products, healthcare and more. They also prefer companies with at least two leaders, who can include both men and women (however, any company must have at least one woman leader to be considered).
The MergeLane program curriculum targets critical issues for early-stage businesses, but also includes topics unique to women business leaders. You’ll work with mentors (both male and female, and from a variety of industries) to get personal coaching, and also be connected to investors who may be able to help your business. Boost your chances of acceptance by watching MergeLane Onramp Live to get tips about accelerators.
Women’s Startup Lab offers two different accelerator programs. In the two-month immersion program, which focuses on coaching and growth, participants get one-to-one consulting in all areas of business, including finance, marketing and legal issues; work with mentors and hear speakers including venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs and angel investors; take workshops and participate in peer-to-peer collaboration sessions; and receive intensive coaching in leadership, power, vision and creating a company culture.
The two-week intensive program, intended for business owners with more limited time available, compresses much of the same learning into a shorter time period; participants also get to tour top tech companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook, and enjoy a spa retreat.
Companies must have traction (i.e., customers) to be considered for either accelerator. While Women’s Startup Lab does not directly invest in businesses, they do make introductions to investors, host an investor pitch day for participants, and include many angel investors among their program advisors.
Springboard, founded to help women entrepreneurs obtain financing from venture capitalists, offers a Springboard Accelerator program that connects companies that have women in leadership and management roles with investors, business development professionals and other entrepreneurs. Participants, who are chosen in two industries–life sciences and digital media/technology–participate in an intensive boot camp focused on making presentations to investors. They also get advice on business strategies from personal advisors.
The four-month program does not require relocating; intensive events are held over one- to three-day sessions, supplemented with virtual conferencing as necessary. When the Springboard accelerator program ends, participants have the chance to present in front of investors or potential business partners.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.