Supporting female founders in emerging markets: Research and Interviews to bridge the gender financing gap

UROP Title: Supporting female founders in emerging markets: Research and Interviews to bridge the gender financing gap

Term UROP is offered: Spring 2021

Compensation: Paid ($13.50/hr) or credit (Note: MIT undergraduate students who received their ELO guarantee in Fall 2020 or IAP 2021 are not eligible for financial compensation Spring 2021)

Location: Remote

Contact: Jona Repishti

Project Description

MIT D-Lab works with people around the world to develop and advance collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges.

 We are looking for a student to support the Scale-Ups, D­-Lab's global accelerator that works exclusively with local entrepreneurs bringing products and services that aim to improve the lives of people living in poverty to market at scale. To date, Scale­-Ups has supported 39 entrepreneurs who have gone on to raise $12.6 million in investment; created 400+ direct and 3,176 indirect full­time jobs; and, through their product and service offerings, directly improved the lives of over 1.5 million people living in poverty.

To support the Scale-Ups program, the student will engage in literature review, information mapping and stakeholder interviews around one of two possible projects:

  1. Barriers to fundraising for female founders (interviews)
    Access to funding is a challenge for pretty much every entrepreneur looking to grow their business. But statistics and stories suggest that for women founders the struggle is all the more real. D-Lab is undertaking a massive survey of 50+ experienced female founders building scalable businesses in emerging markets and that have been successfully able to raise VC funding. Through guided interviews we capture what their barriers have been, what they have learned about the fundraising process (from sourcing VCs, doing due diligence, negotiating, to closing the deal), and what advice they have for other female entrepreneurs following in their footsteps. The student interested in this project would conduct and analyze 10-15 founder interviews over the course of the project. With the data collected we are hoping to build a catalogue of barriers, challenges and tactics that can be used by others;  and we will build a social media channel (similar to humans of NY) to highlight powerful stories we collect from the interviews.
  2. Investment readiness programs for female founders (research and interviews)
    Female entrepreneurs (all things being equal) do not raise as much funding as their male counterparts (around 3% of VC funding goes to female founders). Accelerators/ Incubators/ fellowships are increasingly stepping up to bridge this gap. Many are developing gender specific content on how to better train and support female founders to navigate the unique challenges that they face during the fundraising journey. A student interested in this project would work with me to create a short list of some of the most innovative programs addressing tacking this challenge, conduct an analysis (desk based or via interviews) of the type content/training that they are introducing, and see where gaps exit or emerge in the current landscape.


Applicants should:

  • Have an interest in practical solutions to global poverty challenges.
  • Have excellent writing skills.
  • Have experience processing, analyzing, and displaying data.
  • Have experience conducting literature reviews.
  • Be independent, detail-oriented, and organized.

Apply(ideally by February 26, 2021)

Interested candidates should email Jona Repishti, MIT D-Lab Social Entrepreneurship Manager with a brief explanation of why they are interested in this project and describe any relevant previous experience.

Link to opportunity on MIT ELx site