Babson Breakaway Challenge offers $250,000 prize to women-led startups

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Last year, Babson College researchers found startups with female chief executives receive less than 3 percent of all venture capital investments in the United States. Now, the school is teaming with the Boston-based venture firm Breakaway to ensure that at least one more round of funding goes to an early-stage company started by women.

Applications for the first-ever Babson Breakaway Challenge open Oct. 5, with the winning team getting a $250,000 investment and marketing assistance from Breakaway, which will take an equity stake in the company.

Fifteen semifinalists, selected from the pool of applicants, will be narrowed to six after workshops and a pitch contest in January. The half-dozen finalists will go through a six-week business development program, leading to a second pitch contest to determine the winner.

During the development period, six female venture capital apprentices will work alongside the teams’ mentors. Applications for the apprenticeships also open Oct. 5, and the top performer will earn an internship with Breakaway.

John Burns, the firms’ chief investment officer, said he took Babson’s gender research as a call to action.

“I knew Breakaway could do more to promote women-led businesses and to mentor women venture capitalists,” Burns said.

Cal Borchers is a business reporter for the Boston Globe. Reach him at [email protected].
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