Contest Aimed At Women Entrepreneurs

By Paul Schott Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) On October 26th, female entrepreneurs in Stamford will be invited to pitch their business ideas to investors while riding around in Uber vehicles for 10 to 15 minutes. The finalists will be eligible to pitch for more than $120,00 in grants in November.

STAMFORD

A new contest is seeking women entrepreneurs from southwestern Connecticut who want to accelerate their businesses' growth with the help of a ride-sharing powerhouse.

The Westport-based business accelerator The Refinery, Uber and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation have launched a nationwide pitch competition, Fueling the Growth, for technology-focused and women-led companies that are ready to scale.

The competition will award a total of $120,000 in grants.

"Women-led startups received less than 2.7 percent of venture capital in 2011-2013, so a competition like this helps connect women entrepreneurs and investors in a dynamic, fun and innovative way," Janis Collins, co-founder of The Refinery, said in a statement. "But this competition is about more than prize money. It's about giving the founders valuable access to investors and input on their businesses."

Participants will ride Oct. 26 for 10 to 15 minutes in an Uber car, where they will pitch their businesses to an investor. Stamford, New Haven, Providence, R.I., Baltimore, Kansas City, Mo., and Washington, D.C., will host the Uber rides, with at least 27 set to take part in each city.

"We are hoping to establish Fueling the Growth as an annual event, and in keeping with Steve Case's Rise of the Rest (initiative), we selected cities that are emerging startup ecosystems," Collins said. "Because it is our first year, we limited it to emerging ecosystems where we had investors available to ride in Uber cars to hear pitches. Our goal is to expand the reach every year."

Approximately 20 semifinalists will be invited to present Nov. 16 at the Stamford Innovation Center. A pitch-off featuring that group will determine the final 10.

"We will rank the top 10 after the pitches and will allocate the grant dollars to the top companies," Collins said.

To be eligible for the competition, companies must have at least one woman in a leadership role, show proven scalability with product market fit and use technology in their business model.

Uber officials said that they were pleased to team with The Refinery and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support women entrepreneurs.

"Fueling the Growth will do more than give life-changing grants," said Matt Powers, Uber Connecticut's general manager.

"Starting with the very first pitch that will happen in an Uber, this program will provide female entrepreneurs with invaluable investor feedback, and propel women-led startups to the forefront of innovation."

Entrepreneurs must apply online by Oct. 20 to participate in the competition. If entrepreneurs are not able to ride on that date, they can apply online by Oct. 28 to be considered to present at the final pitch event on Nov. 16.

Full guidelines are available on The Refinery's website, www.therefineryct.com.

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