Inclusive Innovation Leadership Academy


Inclusive innovation leadership academy

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With a vital importance of diverse perspectives and a need for more inclusive leadership in the entrepreneurial sector, Ventureprise and City Startup Labs have designed a collaborative learning program that educates, empowers and inspires women and other underrepresented minorities to utilize their expertise and potential for social and economic impact and growth while advancing an inclusive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators. The mission of the Inclusive Innovation Leadership Academy is for graduating participants to serve as leaders, mentors and decision-makers in the North Carolina entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

To accomplish this goal, Ventureprise and City Startup Labs seek experts with broad experience and an interest in impacting startup companies. 


The program is based on a 20-person cohort model. Participants will complete four workshops provided by Ventureprise, City Startup Labs, Georgia Tech Venture Labs, and the NC IDEA Foundation. Upon completion of the workshops participants will first serve as venture reviewers for startups seeking funding through the NC IDEA grant program (Fall 2021). Program graduates will also participate in a Match Day where North Carolina entrepreneurial ecosystem organizations will pitch opportunities for graduates to serve in leadership, mentorship and decision-making roles in their organizations.  All participants will receive a mentor leader certificate from Ventureprise.

inspire, motivate, influence

Program Benefits

  • Create change makers – Entrepreneurs benefit from knowledge sharing of best practices, failures, connections, resources and sounding boards. This program connects you with entrepreneurs seeking to solve big problems that can benefit from your expertise. 

  • Learn new skills – The program encompasses four workshops designed to prepare you to be a mentor and leader in the innovation and entrepreneurship community. The program will cover entrepreneurial thinking, mentoring startups, lean launchpad curriculum, customer discovery process, venture readiness and review. 

  • Build your network – You will complete the program with a cohort of 20 leaders from the Charlotte community. You will have the opportunity to meet and network with entrepreneurial ecosystem organizations from across the state of North Carolina.

  • Contribute as a Decision-Maker – You will have the opportunity to be matched with different organizations seeking innovation and entrepreneurship leaders, mentors, and decision makers. The program is designed support diverse leadership and decision making in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

Download Information Sheet

Applying to the Program


  • Underrepresented minority status
  • North Carolina resident
  • 5+ years experience in field
  • Must attend all workshops and serve as a Venture Reviewer (NC IDEA Fall 2021)
  • Interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and commercialization

Questions on eligibilty or want to schedule an infomation session?

Contact Laura Smailes, 704-687-5675

Fall 2021 Virtual Cohort 

Workshops: August 11th, 16th, 17th, 25th (Zoom)
Match Day:  September 16th (Hybrid Event: Virtual and In-person)


8/11:  5:30pm-8:30pm

8/16:  8:00am-1:00pm    

8/17:  8:00am-1:00pm

8/25:  5:00pm-6:00pm

9/16:  5:30pm-7:30pm

Apply to be an Inclusive Innovation Leader

Workshop Overviews

Workshop 1 – Orientation and Entrepreneurial Thinking:  This workshop serves as an introductory course in entrepreneurial thinking and how to engage startup ventures. This will be a chance for the participants to get to know each other and become acclimated to the startup ecosystem. 

Workshop 2 – This half day workshop is designed to share both methodologies and strategies for evidence-based entrepreneurship. You will become well-versed in the Lean LaunchPad Startup methodology and be able to deliver advisory and mentorship insights. 

Workshop 3 – This half day workshop will be your opportunity to put your evidence-based entrepreneurship knowledge into practice with interactive customer discovery scenarios and coaching. 

Workshop 4 – This workshop prepares you to serve in the role of an investor in a startup company. You will learn about the NC IDEA program and be prepared to provide insight to the decision-making process for grant funding throughout North Carolina. Your next step will be to review real startup applications and business plans for the NC IDEA Fall 2021 grant cycle. 

Match Day – This is an opportunity for you to learn about entrepreneurial support organizations located throughout North Carolina. These organizations will provide brief overviews of their activities and provide you with opportunities to get involved in a leadership role, whether that be as a decision-maker in venture selection, mentor to startup companies, serve on panels and  other advisory board activities. 

Sign Your Organization Up Today for Match Day



Apply to be an Inclusive Innovation Leader

Questions about Academy? Contact Ventureprise Director Devin Collins,

Inclusive Research

Brookings Institute: Policies to broaden participation in the innovation process

Babson College: The World Needs Inclusive Leadership. Here's Why.

UNC Charlotte's Dr. Jill E. Yovorsky

      The Under-Utilization of Women's Talent: Academic Achievement and Future Leadership Positions

      Women in the One Percent: Gender Dynamics In Top Income Positions

Ocean Partnership: Inclusive Leadership

Korn Ferry Institute: The Inclusive Leader

UNC Charlotte Leadership Researchers

     Dr. Janaki Gooty

     Dr. George Banks

     Dr. Scott Tonidandel