Interested in applying to the Boston or Miami WIN Lab? Below are some frequently asked questions that we get during our application process. We encourage you to read them through and use them as a guide to determine whether the WIN Lab is the right fit for you as you grow your business.
What is the WIN Lab?
Created by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) at Babson College, Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab provides women entrepreneurs with an inspiring community and a rigorous, experiential process that catalyzes innovative thinking and enables them to successfully launch or transform businesses.
WIN Lab is a different kind of venture accelerator, one that broadens the possibilities for women entrepreneurs capable of making a dynamic economic impact. Throughout the eight month experience, “WINners”—iterate their ideas, design and test prototypes, and launch or grow their ventures.
How long in the accelerator?
The Lab runs from September until the following April. It is a 8-month long program that provides a few weeks off between December and January.
How many companies are in the accelerator?
Each city, Boston and Miami, takes up to twenty companies each year. While we could accept additional teams, we feel that 20 is the magic number when it comes to creating a cohesive community of entrepreneurs.
How much does it cost? And do you take equity?
Nope! No equity and no program fees. The Lab is entirely free.
Will I receive seed funding?
We don't provide seed funding but we do present the WIN Lab entrepreneurs with opportunities to participate in pitch competitions and surround them with investors so that when they're ready to go after funding, those relationships have been established.
What does the program consist of?
The program kicks off with a two day intensive retreat in September, where you get to know your fellow entrepreneurs and begin to dig into the content. After that, we meet once a week for three hours and have experts come in and talk about everything from Thinking Big to Customer Acquisition to Financial Projections.
During the program you will be asked to hit six milestones and present to various judges who will give you feedback and advice on the best way to move forward. These milestones are how we keep you accountable and provide benchmarks on your progress. You have to successfully complete and present on each of these milestones in order to continue participation in the Lab.
In addition to content and accountability, we pair each entrepreneur with a coach for the duration of the program. Those coaches spend at least 1.5 hours with the WINners each month and are meant to be there to guide you in the right direction. We also surround you with ecosystem stakeholders who provide office hours and connections depending on what your needs are while in the program. More on that below.
Do you provide any kind of coaching or mentorship?
Yes! Each WINner gets matched with a coach for the duration of the program who is asked to spend at least 1.5 hours with you each month. They are there to act as less of a consultant and more of a guide as you build your business. These relationships are established during a speed networking event where coaches and WINners spend a few minutes with one another and then both parties select who they think would be the best match for them.
We also surround WINners with various experts in a wide range of industries. From taxes and legal to operations and SEO, each city brings in additional stakeholders who want to share their expertise with the entrepreneurs who are in need of it. During our milestone presentations we also bring in judges who listen to presentations and provide feedback and guidance on the particular topic being discussed that evening. These folks stay close to the program and are sometimes available for additional consultation.
Do you have to be a Babson student or alumnae in order to apply?
You don't! Our two city programs work a little differently though:
In Miami there are no academic-affiliation or geographic restrictions around who can apply.
For Boston, half of our seats are reserved for Babson affiliates (alumnae, current students, and staff) or current Olin and Wellesley students. The other half are given to women entrepreneurs in Boston and New England. Through a partnership with the City of Boston's WEBos program, we hold 5 scholarship seats for female founders with a Boston zip code. Another 5 have no geographic or academic restrictions! (More on the WEBos program here.)
How do I apply to the WIN Lab?
Each year we make applications for the upcoming start date available in the spring - typically during the middle or the end of March. If you want to make sure you know when applications go live, head here and fill out the form.
Do I have to have an existing business or can I have an idea that I want to launch while in the Lab?
We require that you have some "skin in the game" in order to participate in the program. While we LOVE people with a lot of passion and a great idea, we ask that you have at least a beta or prototype to be considered as a participant.
What stage of business are the WIN Lab participants typically in?
The WIN Lab entrepreneurs span from having a million dollars in seed funding and thousands of beta users to having just completed the first phase of their minimum viable product. We love having this kind of business stage diversity in the program because it means that all of the entrepreneurs can learn from one another, while also learning from the various stakeholders we surround them with.
Can male co-founders participate in the program? No, male co-founders are not eligible to participate in the Lab as we seek to curate a safe space for a community of female entrepreneurs to create and exchange ideas. As such, male co-founders do not need to participate in the application process. They do need to submit anything for the online application or attend any applicable interviews or Pitch Days during the selection process.
My founding team is made up of both women and men. Can I still apply?
Yes, however, the company should be majority owned by a self-identified woman or women. We are willing to evaluate exceptions on a case by case basis where, for example, the woman founder does not own a majority stake, but holds a C-suite position and drives the strategy and growth of the company.
If our company has multiple women co-founders, can we all participate in the Lab? For capacity reasons, WIN Lab only allows two co-founders from each company to participate in the Lab.
If I have a co-founder, do we both need to fill out an application?
We don't need each of you to fill out a separate application, but if both of you are hoping to be involved in the Lab then we need answers from each of you inside of one application. When you are inside of the F6S application you will see a notes indicating where we need responses from both of you. This is only applicable to female co-founders. As mentioned above, male co-founders do not need to complete the application as they are not eligible to participate in the Lab.
If I have a co-founder, can we trade-off coming to the WIN Lab sessions?
Because we're so focused on building a cohesive and consistent community, anyone who applies and is accepted into the Lab will need to show up for every session. If both co-founders cannot commit, we suggest that one of you apply and commit to participating.
Are there other requirements to participate?
Yes! We're so happy you asked. In order to participate in the Lab you have to be the majority stakeholder in the business and drive strategic decisions. We want to make sure that you can immediately apply what you have learned and developed as you move through the accelerator. We also require that you show up to every weekly session because the community of entrepreneurs is one of the most important aspects of the program and we can't build the community without you in the room.
What do you look for in WIN Lab participants?
1) Power as SheO
The WIN Lab is dedicated to catalyzing women founders who are passionate, committed, and want to build scalable ventures! These women will form part of a diverse cohort that will build their business as they accelerate their entrepreneurial journey as peers. Their potential and drive may speak louder than their business concept. We look at the entrepreneur and their potential, not only their traction to date.
2) Think Big Ventures
WIN is industry agnostic and curates cohorts that include products and services from all sectors. The accelerator is looking for high-growth, well-vetted, BIG ideas, with a clear secret sauce and strong positioning in the market.
3) Timing is Everything
WIN seeks businesses that are in beta stage with a functioning prototype, a strong go-to-market strategy, and are positioned to scale. This will enable them to best leverage Lab resources. We are open to candidates that are slightly earlier or later stage if they have a clear idea on how they will leverage the WIN experience (i.e. idea stage or growth stage that are franchising or launching a new product or service).
4) Community Fit
Applicants should be ready to join and contribute to an entrepreneurial community. We are looking for founders that are willing to fully engage by committing time and energy to the program and their peers. WIN Lab provides its entrepreneurs with an immense amount of expertise, coaching, and resources, and we ask for commitment and contribution in return. Participants (WINners) are required to show up to weekly sessions, meet monthly milestones, provide feedback to their fellow founders, and operate with openness and transparency during the program.
Research shows that start-ups with co-founders are more likely to achieve early success and scalability. We seek founders that are part of strong, women-led, teams with co-founders and/or employees that are committed to venture growth (founder agreements must be submitted before entering the Lab). Solo founders that are actively seeking team members or have a strong organizational plan in place are encouraged to apply.
Okay, I'm ready to get to know the WIN Lab! What can I do?
You can let us know that you're interested in applying by heading here.
Or you can check out some of our events and attend, by heading here.
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