Scale-Ups Fellowship

The 2021 Scale-Ups Accelerator cohort. Image: Courtesy Upaya Social Ventures
The 2021 Scale-Ups Accelerator cohort. Image: Courtesy Upaya Social Ventures
A global accelerator working with local entrepreneurs bringing poverty-alleviating products and services to emerging markets at scale.


2021 Scale-Ups Accelerator

This year, the MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Program has teamed up with the Upaya Accelerator Program to join the strengths of the two programs to reduce barriers to investment in women-led enterprises in India.

MIT D-Lab and Upaya both believe in empowering women entrepreneurs to raise capital, grow their businesses, and create jobs that lift families out of extreme poverty. But research shows that female founders only receive 11% of seed financing. This cohort will explore issues around the gender financing gap and work together to tackle the barriers women entrepreneurs face in their fundraising journey.

The program is designed to bring together women entrepreneurs, spanning sectors and regions across India, to build skills such as fundraising, investment readiness, and leadership – all with a gender lens that exposes and addresses unique barriers to women’s success.

2021 Scale-Ups Accelerator Fellows

Namrata Acharya is the co-founder of Khedut Samriddhi, a Gandhinagar, Gujarat-based company that partners with farmers for the production and sale of organic compost.

Geetika Anand Gupta is the co-founder of MOPP Foods, a cloud-kitchen-based start-up from Gurgaon, Haryana that strives to bring hygienic and tasty Indian snack foods to people.

Amita Deshpande is the founder of reCharkha in Pune, Maharashtra which upcycles waste plastic bags and multilayered wrappers using a traditional charkha and handloom, thus enabling livelihood opportunities for tribal women, artisans, and waste pickers.

Sumeet Kaur is the founder of Spudnik Farms, a B2C agri-tech company working with farmers to supply organic heirloom vegetables directly to consumers in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Aruna Sampige is the co-founder of SheCommerz, a financial services distribution company based in Bangalore, Karnataka that provides technology-driven finance solutions to underserved women-led small businesses.

Smita Singh is the co-founder of Mirandola Designs, a hand embroidery export house in Mumbai, Maharashtra that works to empower indigenious craft clusters.

Savitha Sridharan is the founder of Orora Global, a social enterprise in Bangalore, Karnataka that partners with micro and small-scale manufacturers to link them to solar energy, ensuring uninterrupted work, thereby increasing job opportunities and income.

Vandana Suri is the founder of Taxshe Services, an on-demand cab service of all-women drivers, prioritising the safe mobility of women and children in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Swetha Thakare is the co-founder of GramHeet, based in Yavatmal, Maharashtra which provides post-harvest services to farmers at their farm-gate through a digital platform.

Read Upaya Press Release

Joint Program Focus Areas

This collaboration between the D-Lab Scale-Ups and Upaya’s Accelerator Program will offer essential knowledge, capacity, and networks to women entrepreneurs, equipping them with the tools to access investment and grow your venture. As part of this joint accelerator cohort, fellows will become part of the Upaya Entrepreneur Network as well as the global network of MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellows with dual access to expertise and opportunities that each organization provides.

Taking place over the course of six months, the program will include:

  • Three immersive workshops designed to equip you with the knowledge and connections to grow your business.
  • Technical training and one-on-one consulting support from Upaya’s experienced team.
  • Weekly learning labs focused on tackling the unique challenges female founders encounter while fundraising.
  • Opportunity to meet and network with industry experts, investors, and peer entrepreneurs, and have the opportunity to pitch your business to Upaya and other investors for funding.

Program offerings graphic

In addition to the program support, Upaya will select up to three businesses for USD 50,000 investment, and the participants will have an opportunity to participate in the Co-Design Sprint hosted by MIT D-Lab.


The D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship Story

From 2012 through 2019, the D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship was a one-year program, providing a $20K grant to each fellow and tailored mentoring, capacity building and inclusive design training, and networking.

The program has supported 39 Fellows working on four continents in sectors including agriculture, energy, water, health care, housing, livelihoods, mobility, recycling, education, and personal finance. Fellows supported between 2012 and 2020 raised $21.5 million in investments; have created over 536 full-time, 155 part-time jobs, and 8,226 indirect jobs; and, through their product and service offerings, have directly improved the lives of over 2.25million people living in low-income settings.

MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship Impact Infographic 2012-2020

Initially open to MIT alumni and International Development Innovation Network members, the program underwent a redesign in 2018 and is now focused exclusively on local founders.


Jona Repishti, MIT D-Lab Social Entrepreneurship Manager