Applications are officially open for a new class of participants, who will begin at 1871 in March as part of an expanded offering of the incubator program made possible by a grant from JPMorgan Chase. The new cohort members will be part of the fourth cohort of the WiSTEM program, adding to the 37 companies and 45 entrepreneurs that have participated in the program to date.
The third cohort of WiSTEM companies is currently in progress and preparing for their WiSTEM Showcase, scheduled for February 7.
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming the newest group of female founders to 1871 as we expand our WiSTEM program,” said Jessica Williams, co-facilitator of the program. “We are excited that the mentorship, connections to capital, community building and technology resources provided to our previous cohorts will be extended and offered to even more women in 2017.”
To apply for WiSTEM, interested businesses should visit 1871.com/WiSTEM. In order to qualify, the companies must have at least one woman as a co-founder, and the companies must be technology-enabled. Each company that is accepted to WiSTEM must also meet the general 1871 acceptance criteria.
The spring cohort of WiSTEM will be the first of three cohorts this year, an uptick from two in 2016. The 12 week program will include learning labs, mentorship and pitch practice and will also leverage the existing 1871 programming ecosystem. Each cohort of the program concludes with a showcase featuring the businesses from that cohort and a celebration of women in technology and entrepreneurship.
“The relationships with my cohort family have pushed me to work harder and be better in my business,” said Jamie Migdal, Founder and CEO of WiSTEM 3rd cohort member Fetchfind. “The 1871 staff has been tremendous in helping me with strategy and problem solving. All in all, I truly feel my WiSTEM experience is one of the best things that has happened to me since I founded FetchFind.”
1871 has become the place in Chicago for new initiatives expanding the role of women in entrepreneurship, benefiting from a variety of networks and partnerships including opportunities provided by the leadership of Ms.Tech founder Nicole Yeary. Since its inception, 1871 has welcomed a number of guests who have shared their stories with the members of the WiSTEM cohort as well as the broader community, including Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner, Springboard Ventures founder Kay Koplovitz, uBeam founder Meredith Perry, Jenga inventor Leslie Scott, Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff and Digital Citizen Fund co-founder and CEO Roya Mahboob. 1871 has also worked with partner organizations such as Women Tech Founders and the IoT Meetup to host several popular events focused on women in technology.
1871 has partnered with Ms.Tech and Nicole Yeary since before the WiSTEM program and Yeary designed the curriculum used by the WiSTEM cohort (and, subsequently, the IHCC/1871 Hispanic Tech incubator). Ms.Tech hosts its monthly Masterminds events at 1871, as well as other networking and education events for women in technology, and offices out of 1871 as well. In the coming year, Ms.Tech and 1871 are working together on additional points of cooperation, such as the presence of Ms.Tech mentors as a part of 1871's programming operation, with a focus on facilitating opportunities for women in technology throughout Chicagoland to gain resources, education and opportunity.
The board of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, the parent of 1871, has also been directly involved with WiSTEM. Board members have met with the women of the cohort and are working to connect the businesses to opportunity in the Chicago business community.
“It has been inspiring to work with and watch more than three dozen companies grow and thrive during their time in the WiSTEM program,” said Laura Ferris Anderson, CEC Board Treasurer. “Providing connections and facilitating opportunities for these businesses from within our networks is one of the most powerful things we can do to ensure their success.”
WiSTEM was originally funded in part by the Google for Entrepreneurs #40Forward initiative and is also supported by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Katrina Markoff, Coca-Cola, KPMG, the U.S Small Business Administration and AT&T.
Applications are live now at 1871.com/WiSTEM. The application deadline is February 13, 2017; selected businesses will be notified in early March. Members of the media with questions about the WiSTEM program or those who wish to arrange an interview can contact [email protected].