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FoundHer Fellows

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


2024 Application Information

  • Applications are now closed for the 2024 FoundHer Fellows program


FoundHer Fellows seeks to both “find” and “found” women scientist 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 scientists to participate in entrepreneurship, builds professional networks to sustain their participation, and imbues transferable skills to help them succeed in future entrepreneurial endeavors.

Program Goals

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

Program Highlights

  • 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 and leadership expert to elevate storytelling and pitch presentation skills and enhance executive presence. Critical entrepreneurship skills such as networking, negotiations, and managing and leading people will also be covered. 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 business.
  • Pitch Presentation Development: Iterative pitch development and refinement throughout the program with feedback and support from communication & leadership coach, graphic designer, and mentors. Fellows will present their final pitches to a panel of Chicago-area women venture capitalists and industry leaders.
  • Expanding the Network: Opportunity to cultivate a local network of women peer scientist entrepreneurs, industry experts, and venture capitalists.
  • Networking Field Trip: All-expenses paid field trip with cohort to San Francisco or Boston to meet with VC groups and network with other women scientist entrepreneurs.


  • Northwestern scientific founders (including current or former graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, or research scientists/non-tenure faculty) that are committed to leading (as CEO, CTO, etc.) their research-based startups.   
  • Must have started a company based on their Northwestern academic research (no formal incorporation required) or at minimum have a strong interest in starting a company based on their Northwestern academic research. 
  • Relevant IP for startup must have previously been disclosed to INVO.


  • Ability to participate in full program from March 18 – May 16, 2024 (see Key Program Dates) and attend in-person sessions. 
  • Fellows will be expected to complete pre-reads/pre-work and follow-up assignments for workshops and meetings. 
  • Ability to travel and participate in a 2-day VC networking trip to either San Francisco or Boston during May or June 2024 (dates to be determined based on Fellow availability.)

Key 2024 Program Dates

  • There will be eight in-person meetings at the Querrey InQbation Lab in Evanston, including: 
    • 3/18,  9am-12pm:  Kickoff Meeting 
    • 4/3,  9am-4pm:  Science Communication Workshop
    • 4/10, 9am-12pm:  Pitch Feedback Session #1
    • 4/24, 9am-12pm:  Negotiations Workshop
    • 4/25, 9am-12pm:  Pitch Feedback Session #2  
    • 5/3, 10am-1pm:  Final Pitch Showcase 
    • 5/8, 9am-4pm:  People Leadership Workshop
    • 5/14, 9am-12pm:  Networking Workshop 
  • There will be additional virtual meetings based on participants' schedules, including:
    • Week of 3/18-22:  1-hour Meeting with Mentor 
    • Week of 3/25-29:  1-hour Meeting with Mentor 
    • 4/11:  30-min Meeting with Graphic Designer 
    • 4/17:  1-hour Meeting with Communication Coach
    • 4/26:  30-min Meeting with Graphic Designer 
    • 5/1-5/2:  1-hour Meeting with Mentor 
    • 5/16:  1-hour Meeting with Communication Coach 
    • TBD:  Trip Debrief Meeting
  • A 2-day VC networking trip to San Francisco or Boston will take place during May or June 2024. Dates will be determined based on availability of Fellows.

Application Process

*Applications for the 2024 FoundHer Fellows cohort are now closed*

  • 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.) 


Any questions about the FoundHer Fellows program may be directed to