Have a Woman-Led Company? Here are 5 Reasons to Apply to Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator

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Mary Waiss, CEO at Precision Image Analysis Medical in the Greater Seattle Area and Fall 2016 graduate of Prosper Women Entrepreneur’s (PWE) Startup Accelerator, describes the program simply.  She said, “This is CEO School. Just like parenting, for which there is no school, there is also no formal process to learn to be a successful CEO. PWE offers a unique opportunity to learn directly from other successful executives to help you propel your business in a meaningful way.”

Twice each year for three years, the PWE Startup Accelerator has selected an elite group of promising women CEOs for investment, mentorship, and business development training to participate in its three-month program. It has graduated 22 companies and invested over $1.5 million in their success.

Looking to grow your woman-led company? Here are five reasons to apply for PWE’s second cohort of 2017.

PWE Accelerator Fall 2016
The Prosper Women Entrepreneurs leadership team with the PWE Startup Accelerator Fall 2016 cohort. | Photo courtesy PWE

1/ An award-winning reputation

The PWE Startup Accelerator has received numerous recognitions for investment in St. Louis’s reputation as an innovation and technology hub. For all three of its years in operation, the program has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for business growth acceleration. This accelerator has not missed a beat since inception.

2/ You got to work with HER?

Successful business women (and men) are at the heart of the PWE Startup accelerator, and are deeply involved in the selection process, financial investment in and mentorship of accelerator participants throughout the program. Alexandra Anghel, co-founder and CTO at Appticles in Romania and Spring 2016 graduate of the PWE accelerator, explained that the involvement of the mentors in the program contributed a great deal to the value it provided her. She said, “The PWE Startup Accelerator offers a different model than other business accelerators. The mentors and leadership team give a lot of their time – side by side with the CEOs–making introductions and providing expertise on anything that you might need.” Pam Cooper, CEO of Boosterville in Indianapolis added, “You have the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs with mega-successful business ventures. You get real life advice and insights to propel your business forward.”

3/ It works.

The PWE Startup Accelerator provides all participants an initial capital investment of $50 thousand. The 22 companies that have graduated from the program have raised over $10 million on their own, and have achieved over 140% monthly revenue growth. In addition, 80% of participants have received up to $100,000 in follow-on funding from PWE.

Jacqueline Ko Matthews, Founder and CEO of Investment POD in Washington D.C., and Spring 2016 graduate attributes some of her recent success to St. Louis and the PWE program. “The startup ecosystem in St. Louis is booming. The introductions, relationships and guidance that we received during the PWE Accelerator continues to support rapid growth today. Investment POD not only gained capital and sales, but was also recognized as a leader in the Financial industry with awards from: Barron’s “Best of Best” Independent Financial Advisors, Wealth & Finance Magazine “2016 Alternative Investment Award for Innovation in Online Money Management” and Top 20: USA & Rest of World in BBVA Open Talent competition.”

4/ St. Louis is a key to success.

As one of the first programs in the United States designed to advance women-led businesses, it’s an additional asset for potential applicants that the program is located in St. Louis. Jaye Connolly-LaBelle, President and CEO of RippleNami in San Diego and Fall 2016 participant was surprised by the value she received from a  program located in the Midwest. “The Midwest hospitality I was exposed to was warm, welcoming and motivating. I was introduced to a new community culture that I didn’t know existed in this area. The people of St. Louis and PWE were very hospitable, and I was fortunate to receive introductions  to nearly 50 potential investors – truly a robust group!” Suz Somersall, Cofounder and CEO of KiraKira (San Francisco) and Spring 2016 participant agreed. ” We are very impressed and excited about the St. Louis community. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is excited and HOT…everyone is thrilled and willing to help. There is a movement…a startup movement in St. Louis. Watch out for this community and get involved while it is building up!”

5/ Bottom line: it helps women CEOs.

For those that might question the need for a female-specific accelerator, when compared to the whole Venture Capital market, this kind of focused support critically impacts investment in women-owned businesses. For example, in the current VC market, 7% of partners are women versus 60% women partners in the PWE Startup Accelerator. 15% of all seed money goes to women CEOs in the current VC market compared to 100% in the PWE Startup Accelerator. Despite the fact that only 10% of venture funding goes to women-led companies today, the PWE Startup Accelerator is making a difference to create economic prosperity.

This is true for mentorship and training as well. Suz Somersall, said, “We (as women) tend to shy away and downplay our strengths & the PWE Accelerator is an encouraging environment – without apology and hesitancy, own what you do! The team (comprised of men and women) applaud you for it. In addition, the program emphasizes the strengths rather than weaknesses of a women-led business. Sasha Goodwin CEO of Janus Choice and Fall 2015 participant said, “We’ve been told that having a woman CEO was a liability. I was told multiple times that if I wanted to succeed I needed to hire a white Caucasian male to run the company. PWE not only helped with the hard business decisions, they also ensured me that I was making the right choices for my company.”

Applications for PWE Startup Accelerator’s Fall 2017 cohort are due May 19. Companies with at least one woman in a position of leadership are encouraged to apply.  Learn more and apply online here.

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