Guest post by Alexis Rodich, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business and its series The Emerging Entrepreneur. Alexis graduated this year from American University with a Masters in Business Administration, specializing in finance. She served as AU’s chapter president of Net Impact and takes particular interest in venture capital, social technology, and how women entrepreneurs can use both to further business innovation. Taking the Level 1 CFA exam mid-2009, she is a summer associate for LaunchBox Digital and can be reached at www.twitter.com/alexismichelle.
An environment where teamwork is a must, collaboration encouraged, mentors and advisors are central to the program -and- the objective is for all to win as big as possible!
When I first learned about LaunchBox Digital’s accelerator, a 12 week program where entrepreneurs receive the initial funding and crucial guidance to take their start-up to the next level,
“Wow. This is a perfect environment for women to do business.”
So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that not a single woman lead team (nor team with a female member at all!) participated in LaunchBox’s inaugural cycle in 2008.
In fact, very few submitted applications in the first place.
Like many readers of this blog, I know several women with great ideas, and the passion, dedication, and intelligence to bring those ideas to fruition—perhaps you ARE one of those women!
So why not consider submitting an application to participate in LaunchBox’s 2009 accelerator program?
Program Benefits and Tips for Success:
To learn more about the 2009 LaunchBox program, and how women in particular can benefit from participating, I sat down for a Q & A with LaunchBox Executive Director Mathew Jacobson.
Your application deadline is March 16th. Can you elaborate on what specifically you are looking for in applicants?
Passion, determination, and adaptability.
We want to see that you can deal with the ups and downs and that in the face of all obstacles you have the resilience to continue on.
[image below, 'Determination', from LadyBugBKT, Creative Commons]
We want good ideas, but what we are really funding is the people behind those ideas. Don’t count yourself out, simply because you do not have a fully developed prototype. I think Andrew Lee described it best in his recent blog post about getting in to LaunchBox Digital:
Clearly, a competitive program like LaunchBox’s receives many more applications than can be accepted in to the program. What can applicants gain from the process of applying, regardless of whether they are accepted?
Mathew on the selection process:
The selection process, which is made up of three phases (a written application, phone interview, and in person interview), forces focus. It encourages entrepreneurs to look closely at the market opportunity and potential competition in a way they might not otherwise have done.
Value of feedback:
The phone and in person interviews gives the entrepreneur an opportunity to receive feedback and refine their idea— a very useful exercise, regardless of outcome.
Would you elaborate a bit on female participation in LaunchBox Digital?
Sure. To be clear, we want women involved and strongly encourage them to apply.
We believe that their participation would definitely enhance the program as a whole.
Last year we received a limited number of applications from women lead companies. Teams with female members did make it to the final stage of the application process, but were not ultimately selected.
On that note, should you have more females participating this year, would you go out of your way to connect them to female mentors and advisors?
Mathew on mentorship for women entrepreneurs/applicants
We want to introduce them to the best mentors and advisors, period. Our goal is to make sure that each team is connecting with the most qualified and appropriate mix of advisors to meet their unique needs.
Would you elaborate on the role of community and collaboration in the LaunchBox program?
Mathew on teamwork and startup success
Teamwork plays a huge role in the LaunchBox program. It is not a competition in the sense that our ultimate goal is for all of the start-ups to be as successful as possible, so we strongly encourage teams to share insight, ideas, and solutions with one another.
In terms of community, we do our best to create a culture that is open to dialogue, on several levels: between advisors and LaunchBox Digital principals, the principals and teams, teams and advisors, teams among one another, etc.
The interactive nature of these relationships, all with the shared purpose of driving each team’s success, naturally creates a sense of community.
LaunchBox Digital’s accelerator program lasts 12 weeks. After that period, do you continue to remain involved?
“Very much so!” … and Mathew elaborates further:
Although the extent of our involvement varies, the relationship certainly does not end on August 31st. We continue to provide guidance in a variety of areas, such as product growth and rollout or negotiating term sheets on future deals.
Our primary goal is the continued growth and success of our portfolio companies.
Interested in learning more?
Here are some great resources to engage the LaunchBox Digital community:
First and foremost, apply to the LaunchBox Digital accelerator program!
Join the LaunchBox Digital Facebook Group. This is a great place to find additional team members, learn about important dates, deadlines and related events, and engage the LaunchBox Digital team.
Gain insight from LaunchBox Digital alumni Buzzable and JamLegend.
Ready or not—Let us know (we want to hear from you so leave a comment here!)
If you are a women entrepreneur deciding whether or not to apply to LaunchBox’s 2009 program (or have already decided one way or the other), please let us know in the comments section what factors are influencing your decision.
Not only will your insight help others women weighing their options, but it may also help the team at LaunchBox understand how best to reach and attract the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
(‘Determination’ graphic from LadyBugBKT, Creative Commons)Google+