Accelerators for women-led companies

Steven Loeb · August 3, 2017 · Short URL:

Accelerators include MergeLane, Women's Startup Lab, Equita and Fourthwave

For startups, there are numerous paths for getting their name out there. One way, which Vator has been covering recently, are startup competitions, but another popular method to get a foot in the door, as well as some funding and traction, are accelerators. These are programs that provide companies advice, guidance and various forms of support for startups in their early stages. They also often invest in the companies, for a certain equity stake.

Need a list of startup competitions, challenges, accelerators, etc. from around the world? Check out VatorX. You can find them, or list yours!

There are some very well-known accelerators out there, including Y Combinator and 500 Startups, which have made their names through various successful alumni. Those programs fairly general, accepting companies from a variety of different spaces. 

For some companies, it may help to join an accelerator that only focuses on their specific area. That's especially true for those in more specialized spaces, which will have their own unique challenges and regulations.

Here are some of the accelerators that are focused specifically on mentoring companies with female founders:

"We dramatically increase the number women-led tech ventures through strategically designed programs and accelerators, as well as facilitating meaningful conversations and relationships with leaders of the tech industry."

Investment amount:  Tuition: Equity based (~1 to 3% stake), $1,500 registration fee ($85,000 value)

 Program benefits: 

  • 2 week Silicon Valley immersion residential program
  • Location: Women’s Startup Lab’s exclusive Hito House (our female founder retreat) (lodging and dining included, $4,600 value)
  • Monthly coaching call
  • 3 day Alumni Reunion (~March 2017) ($5,500 value)
  • Use of Hito House for up to 30 days throughout the year for post-program funding activities ($9,000 value)
  • Free services from our partners (web services, email marketing, SMTP and more, $20,000+ value)
  • Attend exclusive investor events and workshops
  • Re-engage! – Join any accelerator that we hold throughout the year (generally held twice a year)
  • Potential for introductions from our team for investor meetings and pitches (based upon your startup’s readiness for funding)

Mentor makeup: Phil Libin, Mari Baker, Fran Maier, Chris Yeh

Portfolio companies: Cognea, Swing by Swing


"MergeLane is broadening the onramp for women at key stages of the startup and innovation ecosystem. MergeLane accelerates high-potential female leaders and startups with at least one female in leadership. The MergeLane platform currently comprises four main pillars."

Investment amount: MergeLane offers $20,000 and the value of the accelerator in exchange for 6% equity. After the companies are accepted into the program, MergeLane also has the option of making investments of up to about $100,000 in any participating company. The latter decision would be at the mutual discretion of MergeLane and the respective company. Any discretionary investment would most likely be made under the terms of a larger round.

Program benefits: 

  • Reduced residency requirement that enables entrepreneurs with commitments in their place of residence to participate
  • Virtual mentoring and mentor connections in the companies' place of residence to ensure connection throughout the program.
  • A curriculum targeting both the most critical early-stage business issues, as well as topics specifically affecting women leaders.
  • Personal executive coaching integrated into the curriculum and a focus on solving deeper issues to produce impactful behavioral and operational change.
  • Connections to high-value, gender and industry-diverse mentors and investors.
  • Meaningful connections to relevant investors throughout the entire program.

Portfolio companies: Tousled, Mapistry, Quickzip Sheet Company, idaciti, TomboyX


"At Brad's Deals, we know women in tech face unique challenges. We'd like to eliminate a few of them by providing a welcoming, collaborative, entrepreneurial environment where women-owned businesses can flourish. The startup we select will get full access to our office resources and specialized advice from our team."

Investment amount: Brad’s Deals does not provide direct funding for the selected startups, and as a result, all intellectual property created by a startup during its participation in the accelerator program is entirely owned by the startup, not by Brad’s Deals. Basically, we will help you get YOUR business off the ground by giving you access to our offices and expertize.

Program benefits: We outfit the selected startups with indispensable resources like office space, phones, broadband internet, and meeting rooms at our headquarters in downtown Chicago. Startup teams also have access to all of the in-house experts here at Brad’s Deals, and are encouraged to host fundraising and marketing events in our space.

Portfolio companies: GiftOn, Five to Nine, Feedback Builder


"Comprehensive ecosystem enabling female leadership and gender-balanced entrepreneurial teams to thrive."

Investment amount: Seed capital investments in qualified accelerator graduates

Program benefits: 

  • Tailor-made educational program and a network of target buyers for testing business model assumptions
  • Pre-screened mentors, access to investors and to first customers. Equita entrepreneurs around the world will support each other on an online platform.
  • Foster a collaborative and creative workspace utilizing methodology from Stanford University’s Institute of Design. Specialized concierge services like childcare to create a family-friendly work environment that supports work-life balance.

Portfolio companies: none listed


"The ReBoot Career Accelerator offers an intensive experience to get women ready for reinvention through hands-on learning of current tech, workplace and career skills."

Investment amount: The regular cost of the program is $1,295

Program benefits: ReBoot Connect, a monthly membership program available in cities throughout the US, offers ongoing learning and community with like-minded women in seminars and workshops. ReBoot in 30 is a 30-session online “coach” that arrives via email to kickstart one’s personal reboot.

Women get connected to employers who are seeking part-time or full-time talent through the ReBoot Job Board and through the ReBoot Talent Discovery Program.

Mentor makeup: Andrea Cole, Kristin Link, Anne Ferris, Tanya Mehta, Merideth Mehlberg



"We catalyze the growth of women-led technology companies to become best-in-class, inclusive, and high-performing. We work from a value system of co-creation with public and private partners to help grow vibrant, diverse start-up ecosystems in the cities where we have programs."

Investment amount: We work with every possible source of capital to create a bridge to funding sources for our cohort companies. We are also actively seeking to invite and/or create new sources of early stage seed and Angel capital, a missing link to the funding chain in most every community. Currently, we do not take equity in companies we support, although this may change in the future when/if we introduce our own funds, which we plan to do in the near future.

Program benefits: 

  • RESIDENCY: Selected companies should have their main headquarters located (or be willing to locate) in the City of their program, and commit that their key co-founding and leadership teams participate wherever possible in the education workshops, mentoring, and community-building events for the program year.
  • DIVERSITY: FourthWave is an accelerator focused on women-led companies with inclusive teams. It is not an all-female program. FourthWave cohort companies should be committed to developing diverse teams and conscious leadership-inspired companies.
  • COMPANY READINESS: We’re looking to support companies who seek to solve critical path problems to achieve a next-level capital event that will result in growth and scale. You should have some traction: have a prototype, have partners and/or investors, have a sound business model, a team in place, and some revenue earnings (anywhere in the world). 

 Mentor makeup: Liz Heller, Pleshette Robertson, Cheryl Beninga, Tracy Saville, Jeannie Kim-Han

Portfolio companies:, Gatekeeper Innovation, NanoCere Technologies, Emtrain, Fishrock Laboratories, Dermveda, HomeZada


"FLANE is a six-week acceleration program for high-potential digital impact ventures focusing on female empowerment. It is put into practise by the Vodafone Institute in cooperation with two amazing partners: the Impact Hub Berlin – offering a thrilling space and workplace in the coolest neighbourhood of the German capital –, and the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie – the leading competence centre in the field of education for societal change."

Investment amount: We give you access to the Vodafone family and connect each team to further potential investors

Program benefits: 

  • Each team receives a stipend of 12,000 Euro to cover living, travel and venture expenses. An apartment in Berlin Schöneberg is reserved for your stay and, if necessary, childcare is available.
  • You will benefit from the expertise of a leading competence centre for education for societal change, the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie. After individually assessing where and how we can best help you get to the next stage in your venture‘s life, we set up a curriculum of team sessions, individual coaching and key experiences to make your venture investment ready.
  • We provide access to the Impact Hub community, a global network of 80+ spaces and over 15.000 social innovators that support your venture globally, as well as to the network of the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie.

Mentor makeup: Sofie Quidenus, Benedikt Franke

Portfolio companies: Ask Without Shame, DigiSitter, Lensational, Securella, Wazi Vision


Springboard Enterprises

"Springboard is a highly-vetted expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women"

Investment amount: For all applicants, there is a $150 application fee (which increases to $200 for late submissions after the priority deadline). For all selected companies, there is a: $2,500 program fee and a suggested contribution of  1-2% in warrants.

Program benefits: During the four-month program, selected entrepreneurs attend a two-day Bootcamp where they are assessed by our team as they begin the Springboard journey alongside a peer group of talented and experienced women leaders.

Each entrepreneur is surrounded by a hand-crafted team of advisors  who provide a diverse array of perspectives to help hone your presentation skills and get new perspective on your strategy. The advising period may also be complemented with a series of workshop sessions led by our advisors and trusted partners built around the collective needs of our entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs continue to get access throughout the advising period by 1-1 calls and meetings.

Towards the end of the program cycle, we set up opportunities to present before small audiences of relevant investors or corporate partners. Depending on the specific program, these events may be attended by up to 100 investors, industry experts and connectors or by just a few, highly connected, highly regarded decision-makers.

Portfolio companies: Xenogen, Kurant, Acteva, SecureWorks, Zipcar



MVP achieves this goal by working with institutions of higher learning to build on-ramps that provides minority tech founders access to tech talent, knowledge, mentors, networking, and access to startup capital in order to successfully bring their product/service to market."

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: 

  • The MVP Accelerator is a venture-in-residence program at the NYIT School of Management-Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (SOMCES). SOMCES is a premiere and distinguishable leader in entrepreneurship education and provides access to tech talent, faculty research, and expertise to manage successful entrepreneurial ventures in the context of a technological and global market place.
  • MVP launched its technical assistance programs to support more than mobile, social, or ventures led by minorities and women. The Accelerator also supports end-to-end product development through augmented reality, 3D printing, and Circuit-board Fabrication. These resources will further support the development of scalable in communities of color.
  • MVP offers a comprehensive calendar of business education events in NYC in supplement to it’s training bootcamps. These programs serve to connect groups of emerging entrepreneurs, startups, and early-growth companies to thought leadership and innovators in tech entrepreneurship.

Mentor makeup: Startups will gain an immense amount of condensed experience through hands-on mentoring, connections to extremely targeted industry insiders, and exposure to investors and the press contacts.

Portfolio companies: CoSign, iBlaze The Map, BLACK NOISE MEDIA, LOH Vision Realty Touch Screen


True North Development

"Three times per year, we accept an elite group of women entrepreneurs to join our virtual accelerator. This 3-month intensive supports women-led businesses through top-tier mentorship, peer advisory, strategic consulting and access to capital, and culminates in our Virtual Demo Day."

Investment amount: All accelerator participants will be charged $1200 to participate in the accelerator; this covers registration and administration fees, and will only be charged to you if you are accepted. The total cost of this accelerator is offset by our corporate and government partners, and we will ask for no additional money or equity stake during the accelerator.

Program benefits: 

  • Receive constructive peer feedback and valued advice from Circular Board members with complementary business goals
  • Weekly modules include mentor-led exercises, templates, tips and easy-to-implement action plans customized for your business
  • Graduates are invited to join Circular Board’s Alumni Circle, which includes rotating, quarterly Circles, weekly modules, exclusive invitations and more
  • Never lose access to accelerator content, which are archived in your customized library so you can revisit modules again and again

Mentor makeup: Donna Orender, Melissa Labauve, Juliana Garaizar, Ali Brown, Anu Bhardwaj

Portfolio companies: givetwig, Miriam Baker, Flux, HomeoAnimal, TeemBook, Hubalou, Haus


"Zone Startup India is launching a short term accelerator program for women entrepreneurs to empower them to become leaders of the future. Leveraging our existing expertise and network, the program would improve the fundability, scalability, and revenue of women led organizations through robust enterprise-development support."

Investment amount: 

  • 3 women entrepreneurs get equity-free seed funding of INR 10 Lakhs, INR 7 Lakhs and INR 5 Lakhs from sponsor partners.
  • GIZ jury selected 3 entrepreneurs get equivalent to INR 21 Lakhs worth of services from professional organizations of their choice

 Program benefits: 

  • 3 months equity free acceleration at Zone Startups India for all program participants, valued at INR 75 Lakhs.
  • 1 jury’s choice winner gets a 1-week, all expenses paid soft-landing at DMZ, Toronto – North America’s #1 business incubator
  • Branding and design identity package worth INR 5 Lakhs for 1 woman entrepreneur from DCCPER.

Mentor makeup: Deena Mehta, Rashima Bansal, Vicki Saunders, Starlebe Sharma

Portfolio companies:, FinMitra, YourDost, Advenio


"The Refinery was founded in mid-2014 to fuel the growth of companies with diverse teams. Through an intense, customized curriculum and structured mentoring, companies develop a growth and funding strategy that is supported by an engaged community of peers, advisors and investors."

Investment amount: A key component of our program is to provide guidance on access to capital, and all funding sources. And, our experienced mentors work with each company on their fundraising needs and strategies as well as developing the right connections.

We have strong relationships with several angel groups and individual investors that participate throughout the program. And, we are currently working on a fund that will make investments in our most promising graduates. 

Program benefits: 

  • Non-resident, X-Industry
  • Weekly hands-on, problem solving webinars/workshops led by experts
  • One on one weekly mentor meetings 
  • Connections to over 80+ mentors, advisors and investors
  • Emphasis on 4 key tracks, Sales & Marketing, Leadership & Building Your Team, Raising Capital, The Ask & The Pitch
  • Participation in Refinery Alumni Events and Pitch Competitions

 Mentor makeup: Chris Gelnaw, North Shutsharawan, Galia Gichon, Lesley Stroll

Portfolio companies: The Local Vault, PregPrep, Gestvision, Level Up Village



"A Pre-Accelerator Focused on Championing Diversity in the Tech Startup Ecosystem"

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: 

  • DivInc offers immersive programming, weekly "accelerate your growth" workshops led by notable tech founders and investors, pitch coaching and investment readiness
  • Work in a collaborative, non-competitive environment with weekly networking/volunteer opportunities, team dinners and access to a strong alumni network
  • Get matched with mentors for weekly meetings, gain one-on-one access to investors and leverage our onsite entrepreneur-in-residence throughout the program

Mentor makeup: Kyle Ballarta, Sara Brand, Ben Cantey, Dawn Jones

Portfolio companies: BigMouff, disruptED, feverfit, Hairu, InPharm Global, Love Intently, MiraLend, Tekhniteo, Xplosion Tech


"Every day in America, women start more than 1,200 new businesses.  That number has doubled since 2011.  But getting those ideas off the ground isn't easy. Prosper Women Entrepreneurs is changing that. Our Startup Accelerator is supporting women business owners by making investments in women-led startups."

Investment amount: 

  • $50,000 for a negotiated equity position
  • Follow-on funding of up to $100,000
  • In addition to the funding provided in the program, companies are eligible for further follow on funding from the PWE Startup Accelerator fund.  The partners and mentors also actively introduce the companies to other regional funding sources and mentor their approach.

 Program benefits: 

  • No need to relocate the company
  • Participants commit to being in St. Louis for 12 days during the three-month program
  • Work intensely on: advancing sales, pitching for and finding money, leading your team
  • Extensive hands-on mentoring -- no competing for attention!
  • Experienced mentors matched to industry and company stage
  • Curriculum specifically designed for women
  • Exposure to a network of experts and capital sources
  • Demo Day!  Pitch to venture capitalists, angel investors, and potential clients
  • Follow-on contact to support your growth

 Mentor makeup: Susan Aselage, Tina Klocke, Carol Lister, Charlotte Martin

Portfolio companies: Appticles, Baloonr, Bandura Systems Boosterville!, Investment POD

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