UNCW Program To Incubate Female, Blue Economy Startups

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Jan 30, 2024
The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship announced a new program offering this month, its Idea Test Lab Powered by Wells Fargo.

The inaugural cohort will consist of a maximum of 10 women in technology, depending on the applicant pool, said the CIE's Director Heather McWhorter. The Idea Test Lab is a 4-week program planned to work like a startup incubator, with the goal of creating more founders in Southeastern North Carolina.

“A lot of people have ideas and all businesses started with an idea,” McWhorter said. “One of the ways that the CIE could help was advancing tech ideas in particular.”

There is a gap in the women technology entrepreneur population, McWhorter said. Her team wanted to play a role in advancing gender equity and inclusion in the tech space, she said.

The early-stage entrepreneurship course consists of weekly meetings beginning in March for the first group. At the end of the four sessions, the founders will pitch their ideas to an audience and a judging panel, McWhorter said.

The second cohort will take place in May and will be centered around blue tech and climate tech. The CIE is invested in the Blue Economy, McWhorter said, so climate tech was an obvious choice for one of the cohort focuses.

Those chosen for the Idea Test Lab will be a tenant at the CIE’s co-working space for the duration of 2024, McWhorter said. The usual price is about $140 per month. Additional networking support will be provided to members of the cohort through the end of the year.

Ideal candidates are early-stage companies still working out the ideation of their startups. Accepted applicants will be involved in high-impact technology and have an idea in the technology sector.

Applications for the first cohort, women in tech, will be open until Feb. 9. Applications for the second cohort, blue tech, will be accepted until March 29.
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