Accelerators for Female Entrepreneurs

Accelerators for Female Entrepreneurs

Innovations at two business schools demonstrate ways more women are being encouraged to enter the marketplace as entrepreneurs.

Some business schools have taken an active role in encouraging greater numbers of female entrepreneurs in the marketplace. Babson College and the University of California, San Diego, both submitted innovations to AACSB’s 2017 Innovations That Inspire challenge, related to the promotion of female entrepreneurship. Each school recognized the need to support women entrepreneurs, and did so through the establishment of accelerators on their campuses that are dedicated to helping women pursue their business creation goals. While both of these accelerators share similar overarching goals, each is constructed differently and offers its own advantages.

The Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab

Babson College, School of Management (United States)

The WIN Lab is designed around a milestone-driven pathway that leads the entrepreneur through the critical phases of venture creation. Over eight months, WINners are required to complete a series of projects designed for business growth. Successful completion of the program is dependent on interaction with relevant role models. Throughout the program, WINners are taught and coached by successful entrepreneurs and leading innovation experts from the business community, as well as world-renowned Babson faculty who not only provide technical assistance but also serve as entrepreneurial role models. The WIN team recruits the following stakeholders from the local innovation and entrepreneurship economy to bring the WIN curriculum to life:

  • WIN Lab Coaches: Seasoned entrepreneurs and executives who commit to meeting with their assigned WINner twice a month for one-on-one coaching sessions
  • Expert Circle: Content experts in key areas, including finance, legal, marketing, sales, and business operations, who commit to visiting the lab for group coaching sessions and office hours
  • Entrepreneurs-in-Residence: High-profile entrepreneurs and investors who visit and contribute to a series of WIN Lab sessions

WIN Lab also produces a series of public events that highlight the contributions of entrepreneurs in the local ecosystem and feature dynamic conversations about the barriers to entrepreneurship. Examples of these include a public demo night that showcases participants’ businesses and hosts a competition for cash prizes and a panel that discusses the ins and outs of raising startup capital. In an academic year, approximately 2,500 people attend WIN Lab-sponsored events.


University of California, San Diego, Rady School of Management (United States)

Seeing the need to increase the number of female entrepreneurs, the Rady School of Management, in partnership with the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, launched the mystartupXX accelerator to encourage and assist women who want to become entrepreneurs.

The mystartupXX accelerator program offers workshops focused on various aspects of launching startups: team-building, leadership, performing a market assessment and obtaining customers' feedback, creating a value proposition, validating business models, and understanding financing strategies needed to launch a business. Each startup works with a mentor (usually a female business leader) and meets regularly with advisors to monitor and encourage their progress. The mystartupXX program helps connect all students with potential investors to get their foot in the door and prepares them for investor meetings. Because mentorship and networking are challenges for women due to the small pool of successful female entrepreneurs who have started and run a tech-based company, the mystartupXX program provides mentorship for all students, creating an ever-growing, diverse community of founders to support and network with one another.

Since its founding in 2012, the mystartupXX program has supported four cohorts of female entrepreneurs and 26 female-led teams. Several startup companies have been launched that have raised more than 8 million USD in funding and have brought several revenue-generating products to the market.

About Innovations That Inspire

From a pool of 315 submissions spanning 33 countries, the 2017 Innovations That Inspire collection demonstrates business education’s engagement across disciplines, with diverse groups, and with business practice. Thirty-five of these innovations were featured at the 2017 Deans Conference and are available for public browsing. The complete collection of Innovations That Inspire, including the 2016 Innovations That Inspire collection, can be found using AACSB’s DataDirect.