UBS Commits $2 Million to Rent the Runway Foundation

NEW YORK — Investment bank UBS has made a two-year, $2 million grant to the Rent the Runway Foundation for continued expansion of Project Entrepreneur. The additional funding will help build on the program’s early success and brings the firm’s total commitment to $5 million, with the objective of leveling the playing field for female founders.

200 female-founded startups have been selected to participate in the third annual Project Entrepreneur Intensive in New York City on April 13-14, 2018, with a keynote address delivered by Arianna Huffington. Among the 200 are 10 finalists who have been given the additional opportunity to participate in the event’s pitch competition for a chance to receive grant funding and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.

“Startups led by all-male teams are four times more likely to receive funding than companies with one woman leader. This needs to change,” said Jennifer Hyman, CEO and Co-Founder of Rent the Runway. “We are thrilled to continue to partner with UBS in breaking down the barriers for female founders by democratizing the knowledge, resources and networks necessary to build impactful companies.”

Since its founding in 2015, Project Entrepreneur has trained over 1,600 women entrepreneurs through its educational programs and events, and has maintained its commitment to inclusivity with an ethnic diversity rate of 50% amongst applicants from nearly every state and across 25 industries. More than $18 million has been raised by program alumnae and 100% of the 2016 Project Entrepreneur Accelerator Participants raised seed rounds within 16 months of participating in the program.

“Project Entrepreneur illustrates that companies who share a common commitment to changing the narrative for women can be a catalyst for sustainable change,” said Jamie Sears, UBS Head of Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas. “We’ve seen firsthand what our UBS Investor Watch research finds – that female founders are the disruptors of our time, more often tapping into a new customer base and looking to make a social impact; we need to ensure they have the resources they need to continue innovating and improving the world around them.”

The annual PE Intensive provides founders with the opportunity to work with leading entrepreneurs, investors and experts as they transform their early stage ventures into high-growth companies.

Among the highlights of this year’s PE Intensive:

  • Keynote conversation between Jennifer Hyman and Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post Co-Founder and CEO of Thrive Global
  • Keynote conversation with Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Alexis Maybank, Co-Founders of GILT Groupe and other ventures, moderated by Jenny Fleiss, Co-Founder of Rent the Runway and Code Eight
  • Sessions led by Fran Hauser (angel investor), Alli McCartney and Rina Kupfersmidt-Rojas (UBS), Jacqui Canney (Walmart), Carley Roney (XO Group/The Knot), and Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller (Mented)

“The two-day intensive will bring together the most innovative rising entrepreneurs in the country with some of the most influential and inspiring VC’s, Founders and CEOs,” said Jenny Fleiss, Co-Founder of Rent the Runway and Co-Founder and CEO of Code Eight. “We’re excited to continue to have such a wide range of industries represented through our participants and to help propel their businesses and expand their networks.”

Finalists for the Project Entrepreneur pitch competition were chosen from over 700 applicants across 219 U.S. cities. The 10 selected companies plus two additional wildcard companies (to be chosen during the Intensive) will present at the live pitch competition on Saturday, April 14. Judges will include female investors from First Round Capital, BBG Ventures, 1000 Angels, Greycroft, Advance Venture Partners and Female Founders Fund.

Winners will receive a $10,000 grant and participate in the aforementioned five-week accelerator program at Rent the Runway. The accelerator includes on-site training, introductions to investors and coaching and mentorship from Rent the Runway, UBS and other top entrepreneurs and executives. The finalists include:

  • Bloomer Health Tech – Alicia Chong R, Founder & CEO (Cambridge, MA): MIT startup transforming women’s health with advanced fabrics technology
  • Bundl – Tracy Bitterolf, Co-Founder & CEO (Los Angeles, CA): A long-term rental service for premium baby items
  • Floss Bar – Eva Sadej, Co-Founder & CEO (New York, NY): Oral health reimagined through a convenient, affordable and fun way to get basic dental services in major cities
  • Leche Lounge – Stephanie Conduff, Founder & CEO (Tulsa, OK): Portable lactation suites empowering women in the workplace by solving a legal mandate
  • Natakallam – Aline Sara, Co-Founder & CEO (New York, NY): Provides refugees/displaced people with an income by connecting them to remote language teaching and translation opportunities
  • NaturAll Club – Muhga Eltigani, Co-Founder & CEO (Philadelphia, PA): Subscription service for food grade hair products using food preservation technology
  • OmniVis – Katherine Clayton, Co-Founder & CEO (West Lafayette, IN): A biotechnology company that has developed an integrated portable pathogen detection platform
  • PathSpot Technologies – Christine Schindler, Co-Founder & CEO (New York, NY): A system that protects restaurants and their customers from the threat of food-borne illness
  • SmartSpark – Ariel McNichol, Co-Founder & CEO (Los Angeles, CA): Chronic disease & addiction recovery support via AI-driven, personalized video platform
  • The Crafter’s Box – Morgan Spenla, Founder & CEO (San Diego, CA): A monthly crafting subscription pairing thoughtfully sourced materials and tools with detailed, digital, artist-led workshops