These alums of our in-house startup accelerator have all marked a major milestone as women entrepreneurs. Here, they reflect on their success and share advice for other women founders.
According to recently published research, startups with all-female founding teams raised just 2.2 percent of all venture capital in the first eight months of 2021, a lower share than any of the previous five calendar years, while teams with male and female founders raised 11.7 percent of the total.1
Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab is striving to change that. Since its inception in 2017, our in-house startup accelerator—which provides access to capital, curated content and powerful networks to early-stage technology and technology-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs—has had twelve women alums raise $1 million or more in venture capital, including Reham Fagiri, co-founder and CEO of AptDeco, an online platform that connects buyers and sellers of quality pre-owned furniture, and Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of Landit, a personalized career-pathing platform aimed at increasing the success and engagement of women in the workplace.
It’s an achievement reached by only about 2,300 women in this country in 20192—and only 289 Black and Latina women as of February of this year,3 nine of whom are represented in our $1M+ club. Here’s a bit more about a few of these remarkable women and their companies.
- Founder: SaLisa Berrien
Company: COI Energy
Elevator pitch. We offer an integrated artificial intelligence platform for electric utilities to eliminate energy waste, save on energy costs and protect the environment.
MCIL Cohort: 2018
Funding raised to date: $3.1M
What was the most impactful part about being in the Lab?
The staff, mentors and advisors coached me, provided resources, and encouraged me when I needed it. The Lab truly changed the trajectory of my company.
- Founder: Tanya Van Court
Elevator pitch. We offer a goal-based gifting and savings platform for children that is funded by the children, their parents, and other friends and family, allowing kids to save for their own short- and long-term goals.
MCIL Cohort: 2018
Funding raised to date: $20M
In one sentence, what piece of advice do you have for other women founders? Find your tribe. As cliché as that might sound, you have to surround yourself with the people who root for you, who believe in you and who want to see you win, because there are a lot of unexpected obstacles and challenges along the way, and you will need that energy to keep you moving forward every day.
- Founders: Mandy Price and Star Carter
Elevator pitch. We offer a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) focused SaaS platform that delivers companies clear metrics to diagnose, prioritize and optimize DEI efforts
MCIL Cohort: Winter 2021
Funding raised to date: $4.6M, and we are in active discussion for our next funding round.
What has been the most difficult part of the fundraising process? Research shows that VCs ask male entrepreneurs more promotion-oriented questions, which focus on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals. Women entrepreneurs receive more prevention-oriented questions, which are focused on risk, responsibility, security, and vigilance. A promotion question begets a promotion answer, and a prevention question begets a prevention answer.
- Founder: Barbara Jones
Company: Lillii RNB
Elevator pitch: We are a boutique IT consultancy whose signature software product enables retailers to seamlessly integrate their point-of-sale systems with return management applications, saving both time and money.
MCIL Cohort: Winter 2021
Funding raised to date: $1.1M and we are in due diligence now for a $3M round.
What’s been your biggest success to date? Generating seven figures in revenue for my company and getting a famous celebrity interested in investing in it (cannot name them yet!).
- Founders: Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow-Cruz
Company: myLAB Box
Elevator pitch. We provide a direct-to-consumer platform for at-home health testing and treatment, delivering lab screenings and consultations with unprecedented convenience and privacy at a competitive price.
MCIL Cohort: 2018
Funding raised to date: $2.6M
What’s been your biggest success to date? We started myLAB Box with nothing but vision and hard work. Seven years later, we reached profitability and have generated over $20M in revenue. Beyond that, our concept, which faced so much doubt and even ridicule at the start, is now getting established as the new standard of care. This gives me a lot of faith as an entrepreneur to trust my gut and not shy away from challenges.
- Founder: Dana Weeks
Company: MedTrans Go
Elevator pitch. We provide a tech-enabled patient optimization platform that aims to reduce medical appointment cancellations by providing patients access to medical transportation, interpretation services, Rx delivery and telemedicine services.
MCIL Cohort: Summer 2021
Funding raised to date: $3.2M total, including $1.5M from the latest seed raise
In one sentence, what piece of advice do you have for other women founders? Use the kindness, vulnerability, compassion, and transparency often attributed to women leaders as a superpower to address everything from understanding the needs of your team and customers and maximizing hybrid working environments to fundraising and driving growth in the business.
- Founders: Elise Smith and Heather Shen
Company: Praxis Labs
Elevator pitch. We are a software-as-a-service company that develops virtual-reality-based diversity and inclusion training modules for the workplace.
MCIL Cohort: 2020
Funding raised to date: $18.7M
What’s been your biggest success to date? In addition to the pride I feel in our diverse, brilliant, and talented team, I'm proud of the impact our justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) learning journeys have had for our clients and their employees (our learners!). It's incredibly rewarding to help make workplaces more equitable and inclusive.