We will accept one class per calendar year with a February start date.
The program is 12 weeks, from February 12th - May 5th 2017.
The program is full-time for twelve weeks, but you only need to be local in Boulder from February 12th - February 24th and the last week, May 1st-5th
Most accelerators require in-market residency for 12 weeks. We intentionally created a program that allowed a broader range of people from all over the world to participate. Our blended resident/virtual model was developed with this in mind.
You will secure housing on your own. Because it’s February, the Airbnb and hotel options are pretty available and easy to find. Our program’s live events those weeks will be in the heart of downtown Boulder.
Our program is sector-agnostic. We expect to include teams in tech, consumer web, consumer products, natural products, health care, and more.
It opens on September 1, 2016. Find it here. It closes on December1st , but we will be doing a rolling review of applications, so sooner is better than later.
Yes. We are delighted to receive applications from companies located anywhere in the world so long as the company is willing to be in Boulder physically during the first two weeks and the last week of the program.
Any team accepted into the program must have at least one female in leadership, but we want to have a gender-diverse program, just as we have male mentors and investors. To qualify, one female must be in a position of influence in the company. Most commonly, this means she is a co-founder.
First and foremost, we are looking for awesome teams who can make meaningful progress during our program. It is more likely that companies with some degree of traction will be able to make meaningful progress and attract investment capital at the completion of our program, but “traction” is a variable term that applies differently to different sectors. So for a natural foods company, we want to see a product that has been created and marketed in some form. For a technology product, we want to see some evidence of the product versus just an idea. And, yes, we will be flexible in evaluating the full range of factors in evaluating a prospective company: team, experience, market size, product-market fit, proof of concept, potential to scale, and other softer variables that we evaluate in looking seriously at the finalists out of our application pool.
We have designed our program to meet the needs of more established businesses, but because women are statistically less likely to apply for things unless they meet every criterion, we want to make it very clear that we will weigh ALL factors carefully.
We will never say never; however, we do view teams with at least two founders as stronger because this allows for a broader skill set and a lower dependency on one single person. Don’t let this keep you from applying. We want to hear from you.
It opens on September 1, 2017. Find it here. It closes on November 23rd, but we will be doing a rolling review of applications, so sooner is better than later.
We read every completed application and watch every video we receive. We do a first and second cut through skype interviews with the MergeLane team. We end up with a group of finalists, and we spend more time digging into those businesses, frequently asking key mentors in a company’s sector to offer opinions or conduct additional interviews.
Yes. An increasing number of companies are participating in multiple accelerator programs. Accelerators offer different networks and approaches, and MergeLane offers a unique value to its participating companies.
It is not uncommon for really early, or relatively later-stage companies to participate in accelerators. In 2015, our MergeLane cohort ranged from pre-revenue to substantial run rates. Some of our companies had raised meaningful capital before the program and raised more than $2.5 million in aggregate by the midway point.
MergeLane’s 2015 participating companies had raised more than $2.5 million in aggregate before the end of our program. In every case, we were able to enhance participating companies’ ability to raise capital by virtue of their participation in MergeLane. In our experience, joining MergeLane greatly increases our participants' credibility among investors and their ability to satisfactorily complete their raise.
MergeLane’s 2015 participating companies had raised more than $2.5 million in aggregate before the end of our program. If you have current investors, joining an accelerator is a matter of discussion with current investors to work through the issues associated with the equity grant to MergeLane. This is a conversation that is common and one we’ve held many times. We generally find current investors to be well-disposed to a company’s opportunity to join a well-respected accelerator.
In our view, it is never too late to surround a company with world-class mentors and exceptional fellow entrepreneurs who offer great advice and potential connections to customers, investors and the media. Of course giving up six percent of a more established company is more difficult, but as stated by Joe Coleman of Contently, later stage companies can sometimes benefit more from an accelerator because they are in a better position to execute on the connections made during the program. There is a common misconception that accelerators are only for early-stage companies because this was the focus of the early accelerators. It is now not uncommon for companies that have raised capital and generated material revenue to participate in accelerators. This article also has several examples of later-stage companies that greatly benefited from an accelerator program.
Our overriding preference -- which jibes with the preference of most sophisticated investors -- is that our accepted companies be C Corporations.
MergeLane offers $20,000 and the value of the accelerator in exchange for 6% equity. After the companies are accepted into the program, MergeLane also has the option of making investments of up to about $100,000 in any participating company. The latter decision would be at the mutual discretion of MergeLane and the respective company. Any discretionary investment would most likely be made under the terms of a larger round.
We believe that women as a generalization frequently (a) have challenges in asking for help; (b) are less willing to go live, seek funding, or take risks until everything is “ready” or even more than ready; (c) tend to shoulder all of the responsibility versus sharing it with others and creating a support network; and (d) undersell, think small, raise too little money in a fundraising round, etc. These are major generalizations. Many women do not see these dynamics and many men do see them. We are going to cater the program to meet the leaders right where they are, and we are willing to be in dialog on these unique issues that we see commonly in the women leaders we encounter (and…candidly…in ourselves).
MergeLane companies work in and on their businesses during the program. The program is demanding, but the benefits of the input MergeLane companies receive is intended to ensure that they are pursuing the best and biggest potential for their company. Sometimes this shift requires stepping out of the day-to-day to see the bigger opportunity.
First, we require only three weeks of residency in the 12-week program. Second, our program focuses not only on the typical issues common to all startups, but we also incorporate elements that we feel are unique to women leaders. Third, we are industry-agnostic. Fourth, all CEOs have CEO coaches to address the intrinsic issues leaders face that may impede them from reaching their goals.
The first two weeks are called Mentor Madness for a reason. For those in-person weeks and for a lot of the couple weeks thereafter, you will be meeting with mentors and determining who will serve as your lead mentors. The ensuing remote weeks will involve meetings with your CEO coach, office hours with the MergeLane team, mentor meetings, CEO meetings (for CEOs), and a wide range of relevant topical sessions designed to enhance your progress as a company during our time together. You will, of course, also be running your business. And, yes, that is a lot to manage, but we think it is well worth it.
MergeLane has received extensive positive media coverage and praise. MergeLane also was awarded a $50,000 award from the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Award. Learn more here.
Good mentors can offer tremendous value from everything from making an introduction to a potential customer to helping to completely redesign a product. To give a few specific examples from our last class, one of our companies was looking for a celebrity to endorse their product, and one of our mentors was able to introduce them to Pink. Another company was a mapping technology and we were able to match them with a mentor with 30 years of both technical and acquisition experience in their industry. The mentor was able to help the company uncover a $4 billion market opportunity and map out the milestones they’d need to hit to raise capital and potentially be acquired.
This varies based on needs of each company. MergeLane stays involved in two ways. First, it is common for accelerator mentors to continue to work with the companies after the program. Many of our 2015 mentors are still acting as mentors and several have deepened their commitment as investors, board members or by even joining the team full-time. Second, the MergeLane team remains available for continued mentoring, and support and introductions for fundraising. We showcase alumni in media opportunities. We look forward to the involvement of alumni in our future teams’ success, and we know we are building an invaluable network of MergeLane alumni that will support each other moving forward.