Equalize – 2020 and Beyond

kleute /  Aug. 06, 2020

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The why and what of Equalize

Equalize is the result of many conversations about how we can affect real change in the area of women researcher engagement in commercialization and entrepreneurship. Nichole Mercier had the vision for the event based on her experiences at Washington University in St. Louis, and she brought in supporters from around the United States to help with the effort. From discussions with those supporters, Equalize 2020 evolved into a 6-month mentorship program for 12 women-led startups from U.S. academic institutions, culminating in a pitch competition on June 25, 2020.

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Equalize 2020

As for the event itself, we shifted quickly from an in-person combination of workshops, panels, and pitching program to a completely virtual event comprised of an online keynote from Elizabeth Dougherty of the USPTO followed by 10-minute pitches from all 12 entrepreneurs. Instead of pitching before a live audience, as all of our applicants had originally intended, they had to be their own IT department, learning the ins and outs of the Zoom webinar platform prior to the event. From experience with prior Zoom events, we knew this would not go off without some hitches, but whenever those hit during our 5-hour event, the presenters, judges, and audience handled them with patience and grace.

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The journey doesn’t end here

Equalize 2020’s journey began with the acknowledgement there was a missing piece in the university entrepreneurship system — a cross-university mentorship program and pitch platform for women academic entrepreneurs. The result of this missing piece: lost opportunities in translating science to products and transforming leading academics into leading company founders. We were truly blown away by the incredible number of applications we received for Equalize 2020, which were mostly scientific ideas. In addition, the feedback from our mentor-mentee pairings has been extremely positive. This is a scalable solution.