Morgan Stanley

Multicultural Innovation Lab

Our in-house startup accelerator promotes financial inclusion and provides access to capital for early stage technology and technology-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs.

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By specifically catering to high-growth multicultural and women entrepreneurs, the Multicultural Innovation Lab presents a unique opportunity for disruptive startups to increase their visibility, accelerate their business and achieve success.
Carla Harris Senior Client Advisor

Our Mission

In our 2018 survey, investors reported capitalizing multicultural and women-owned businesses at 80% less than businesses overall, and our research shows this translates into roughly $4.4 trillion in missed opportunity. The Multicultural Innovation Lab, part of our Multicultural Client Strategy Group, is here to change that. Launched in 2017, and expanded to include founders in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2021, the MCIL promotes financial inclusion and provide founders of tech and tech-enabled startups with much-needed access to investors—along with the tools, resources and connections they need to grow and thrive. The Lab’s mission is nothing less than to transform the investing landscape.

Key Stats

Interested in applying? While we’re not currently accepting applications, we will open applications for the Winter 2023 cohort in July 2022. Please sign up below to be notified when applications are open.

About the Program

Curated Curriculum

The Lab customizes a curriculum for each startup, including finance & sales strategy, marketing & branding, and private sessions with industry experts.

Mentorship That Makes a Difference

Morgan Stanley pairs each startup with hand-picked mentors who provide advice and counsel to help each company grow and scale its business.

Powerful Networks

We introduce startups to our bankers, financial advisors, technology experts and others who can connect each company to their industry networks. We also give them access to potential clients and the investor ecosystem at large.

Showcase and Demo Day

Our five-month program culminates with a Demo Day during which all participants can present to a network of investors, potential business partners and customers, who could help take their companies to the next level.

CAROLYN: The process getting into MCIL is incredibly thorough. Some might say intense. I found out about the program from other founder friends who had already participated and across the board they each cited MCIL as that one program that really elevated their game and really helped their businesses to scale and grow very quickly.

TIFFANIE: It's a fun and scary type of application process: A lot of questions, a lot of different interviews. We saw the application years ago...OK, we're not ready. We can't answer half of these questions. And I knew in 2021 we were ready.

SINDHU: For us, it was the right timing. We had a couple of category-leading customers in our portfolio that would really help us grow efficiently and Morgan Stanley was at the right time and the right place to help us accelerate that growth.

CAROLYN: What surprised me about being a part of MCIL is how much it really is like a family. From day one, they put us at ease and helped us to know that yes, while we are investing in you as a company and as a founder, we consider ourselves to be silent co-founders.

TIFFANIE: So the main activities included weekly meetings with your team, that really help you tackle a lot of different things that you're focused on throughout the five months. So it can be fundraising, it could be hiring, it can be thinking about your go to market strategy.

DANNY: You actually meet with your team, which includes some Morgan Stanley internal people actually talking to you practically about your business needs and what you want to work on on a weekly basis.

TIFFANIE: I really love my mentor. She's been amazing, and she has so much expertise on purchasing and procurement and buyer and vendor relationship. She selected me: 'I want to work with Tiffanie'.

DANNY: One of my mentors, an entrepreneur in residence, who is a founder of an Ed Tech startup and an angel investor himself, and that was super helpful from someone that had scaled a company up themselves.

CAROLYN: Being a part of MCIL in the middle of our fundraising process has also been incredibly helpful. We're raising our seed round and being able to pressure test and talk with my individual team about our raise, about investors that we are considering.

TIFFANIE: Just having that name of Morgan Stanley behind you as a small startup growing is so important because it showcases a lot, not only to your customers but other investors that, 'Hey, if they are supporting you, then it's good to support us as well'.

SINDHU: I think this is one firm that any founder would like to have on their side, especially as we are growing into raising series B and maybe one day going public.

DANNY: One of the main things me and Playlister Club learned through the lab is that storytelling is super important at all stages of the company. You have to be ready to tell a compelling story about your business, whether you're grabbing a coffee or in a boardroom.

CAROLYN: Innovation contributes to bringing more equity to our world. For me, as a founder, this five month period of time has been really unique. More goodness to come.

Winter 2022 Cohort


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Team Leadership

Selma Bueno, Managing Director, Head of Multicultural Client Strategy

As Head of the Multicultural Client Strategy Group, Selma Bueno oversees the Multicultural Innovation Lab, the Next Level Fund and other key initiatives that help strengthen Morgan Stanley’s commercial engagement and connectivity with the multicultural business community. Selma most recently served as Morgan Stanley’s Global Chief Administrative Officer of Investment Banking and has over 20 years of investment banking experience, advising companies across North America and Latin America.

Alice Vilma, Managing Director, Co-Head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab

Alice Vilma has been at Morgan Stanley for more than 15 years and has over 20 years of investment banking, capital markets, structured finance and investing experience, executing over $25 billion of securitization, structured finance and equity transactions. She graduated cum laude with a B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Miami and received her MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Read Alice's Story

The Lab Experience



Frequently Asked Questions



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Background and Basics


What is the Multicultural Innovation Lab?

The Multicultural Innovation Lab is an intensive five-month accelerator designed to help further develop and scale startups, culminating in a Demo Day and showcase presentation to the investor community.

When and why was the Lab started?

Morgan Stanley launched the MCIL in 2017 in order to address inequities in funding of multicultural and women-led startups, which our research shows totals more than a trillion dollars.

Who leads the Lab team?

Our team is led by Managing Director and Head of Multicultural Client Strategy Selma Bueno and Managing Director Alice Vilma. Together, they have over 40 years of equity syndicate, investment banking, capital markets and structured finance experience.

Where is the Lab based?

The Lab is based in our office at 522 Fifth Avenue in New York City. In October 2021, Morgan Stanley announced an expansion of the Lab to Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). EMEA MCIL offices are based at 20 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4AD.

Contact Us

For additional questions about our New York-based program, please use this contact to email us and we’ll get back to you shortly. For questions about our London-based (EMEA) program, please email us here.

Application Details


Who is eligible?

The ideal candidate will meet the following criteria:

  • Is a multicultural or woman founder, co-founder, CTO or other C-suite member.
  • Has founded a technology or technology-enabled startup that falls within the Seed to Series B funding round stage.
  • Has launched product with demonstrated revenues that validate the initial business model and market opportunity.

Do I have to live in or relocate to NYC or London to participate? How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the onsite aspect of the program?

We believe that the value of our program lies in part with the relationships built among the cohort and with the broader Morgan Stanley community. In the past, this required all participants to be on site in our offices for the duration of the program. However, to ensure the health and safety of all members of our program and community, Lab activities and events are operating on a hybrid remote and in-person model. We will continue to operate in a hybrid model, as long as it is prudent and responsible to do so, with the intent to return to full in-person programming as soon as possible.

When are applications open?

While we’re not currently accepting applications, we will open applications for the Winter 2023 cohort in July 2022. Please sign up below to be notified when applications are open.

Do I have to lead a FinTech company in order to apply?

No. We look for technology or technology-enabled startups across a variety of sectors.

When will I hear back about my application?

We aim to target contacting applicants with next steps within one month after their application is submitted.

I’ve applied to the MCIL before. Can I apply again?

We absolutely welcome repeat applications and encourage previous applicants to keep in touch.

I am interested in applying to the London-based program. What else do I need to know?

The EMEA MCIL program will launch with a first cohort of five companies led by women or ethnic-minority founders in August 2022. The application period opens in January 2022.  

Contact Us

For additional questions about our New York-based program, please use this contact to email us and we’ll get back to you shortly. For questions about our London-based (EMEA) program, please email us here.

What You Can Expect

Does Morgan Stanley invest financially in companies that participate in the Lab?

Yes. Morgan Stanley contributes $250,000 to each company participating in our New York-based program and £200,000 to each company participating in our London-based program in exchange for an equity stake.

What does the curriculum cover?

The curriculum is tailored to suit each individual cohort, but it generally includes such topics as branding your startup, developing your investor pitch, refining your value prop and devising effective finance and sales strategies. In addition, we offer participants the opportunity to meet with industry experts for one-on-one consultations.

What kind of mentorship will I receive from Morgan Stanley?

We pair each company with a Morgan Stanley mentor chosen specifically for their relevant expertise. Your mentor communicates with you regularly and can provide advice and counsel on company growth and scaling your business.

Will I be introduced to investors during my time at the Lab?

Morgan Stanley leverages its broad network of clients and investors on behalf of its Lab cohorts, making introductions and connections that aim to grow and scale each company’s business.

What is Demo Day?

Demo Day culminates the five-month Lab program, with each founder pitching to an audience of potential investors and clients.

Does the Lab team support its portfolio companies after the program is over?

Yes, we stay in contact with former participants and follow their successes, continuing to offer advice and support as needed.

Contact Us

For additional questions about our New York-based program, please use this contact to email us and we’ll get back to you shortly. For questions about our London-based (EMEA) program, please email us here.