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FoundHer Fellows

The FoundHer Fellows is an annual fellowship program designed to cultivate first-time women faculty entrepreneurs at Northwestern.  Through one-on-one mentoring, the program focuses on the commercial strategy of the Fellows’ scientific discoveries, professional development, and pitch presentation coaching. 


FoundHer Fellows seeks to both “find” and “found” women faculty entrepreneurs within the university ecosystem.  A 2017 study by OUP uncovered that only 11% of university startups had a woman scientific founder or co-founder.  FoundHer Fellows actively invites women faculty to participate in entrepreneurship, builds professional networks to sustain their participation, and imbues transferable skills to help faculty succeed in future entrepreneurial endeavors.


  • Cultivate a translational mindset (view research through a commercialization lens)
  • Enhance executive presence and elevate presentation/storytelling skills
  • Grow network of women faculty founder peers, mentors, investors, and industry experts
  • Provide sense of belonging in entrepreneurship


  • One-On-One Mentorship:  Connection to a Chicago-area woman industry/VC mentor with relevant subject matter expertise and deep commercialization experience.  Fellows and mentors will meet regularly to develop and refine the Fellow’s business rationale and overall strategy.
  • Professional Skills Development:  Professional coaching by communications expert to elevate storytelling and presentation skills and enhance executive presence.  Coaching will include both group-based and one-on-one sessions.
  • Custom Presentation Design:  Professional graphic design services to build a polished, professional pitch deck based on Fellow’s technology/business.
  • Pitch Presentation Development:  Iterative pitch development and refinement throughout the program with feedback and support from communication coach, graphic designer, and mentors.  Fellows will present their final pitches to a panel of Chicago-area women venture capitalists.
  • Expanding the Network:  Opportunity to cultivate a local network of women peer faculty entrepreneurs, industry experts, and venture capitalists.
  • Networking Field Trip:  All-expenses paid field trip with cohort to Boston to meet with VC groups, tour startups and network with Boston-area women faculty founders.


  • Northwestern faculty PIs conducting research in STEM disciplines.
  • Must have previously disclosed IP to INVO.
  • Strong interest in starting a company based on academic research (no formal incorporation required.)
    • NOTE: If a startup has been formed, the company should not have raised more than $1M.  Priority will be given to pre-startup applicants.
  • Ability to participate in full program from March 10 – April 14 and attend 4 in-person sessions at the Querrey InQbation Lab in Evanston.
  • Ability to travel and participate in a 2-day networking trip to Boston during summer 2023 (dates to be determined based on Fellow availability.)


  • Applicants must submit a 10-slide presentation deck with the following information:
    • Product – at a high level, what is your technology?
    • Thesis – what problem are you trying to solve?
    • Technology Approach – at a technical level, how are you solving the problem?
    • Market – who are your customers and approximately how many are there? (Include beachhead and total market opportunity.)
    • Competition – who else is solving this problem and how?
    • Funding to Date – what type (grant, investment, other) and amount of funding has this project received?
    • Team – who else is working on this project with you? (E.g. academic researchers, company members, etc.)


 *Applications for the Inaugural 2023 cohort are now closed*

Any questions about the FoundHer Fellows program may be directed to