We are excited to announce that MergeLane will be accepting its first class of women-led startups in February of 2015. After years of running, mentoring and investing in startups, Sue Heilbronner saw a need for this and I am so thankful she convinced me to join her.
After becoming increasingly aware that she was often the only woman in the entrepreneurial startup room, Sue called me and said “I have a great idea, are you sitting down? I think you and I should start an accelerator for women-led businesses.” And I thought, “Sue, I love you, but I’m not sure I’m bought in.”
I was well aware of the looming accelerator shake out and I have always been a fan of diversity rather than all-female efforts. Luckily, persuasion is one of Sue’s best talents. She of course, wouldn’t take no for an answer and asked: “As an angel investor and entrepreneur, aren’t you tired of being the only female in the room? And you like to invest in women and male/female teams, right?”
In fact, I was tired of being the only woman in the room and I do like to invest in women, both because I tend to meet extraordinary entrepreneurs who happen to be women and because the statistics overwhelmingly show that women-led and gender-diverse businesses perform better. So I thought, hmm…..maybe I should give this some thought.
And her persuasion continued. “I’m not proposing that we start an all-female accelerator. I’m proposing that we start an accelerator that is backed by an equal number of male and female investors and mentors, and is uniquely designed to activate female leaders,” Sue said.
So…this started to sound a little more interesting. As angel investors and mentors, Sue and I had met with hundreds of female entrepreneurs and had chatted many times about the different nuances of female vs. male entrepreneurs (more on that in a future blog post). But would top-tier female entrepreneurs apply for a female-focused accelerator? Would investors want to invest in something like this?
After talking to about 150 of the most respected entrepreneurs and angel investors in our network and beyond, I can emphatically say YES.
Because of the overwhelmingly positive response and support we’ve received, we are ready to announce that our first class will start on February 2, 2015 – seven months ahead of schedule.
Sue sent me this picture of the note I left at her house after her fourth attempt to artfully persuade me. I am so glad she has such a talent for that. I am humbled to join her and the long list of influential and inspiring people who have agreed to join us in this effort.
As an entrepreneur, I know how to push water uphill with a rake. Now I’ll just have to learn how to move with a current that’s faster than me.