BMO Harris Bank and 1871 Team Up to Launch Women’s Fintech Mentoring Project

A collaboration between BMO Harris Bank and incubator 1871 has been launched to help empower the next generation of women-led fintech startups. The innovation lab sponsored by the two organizations is now accepting applications for its female-focused startup leadership mentoring program, WMN•FINtech.

“Women face unique challenges when running any business, especially startups,” BMO Harris Bank head of U.S. business banking Niamh Kristufek said. “We designed this year’s program to help women innovators and entrepreneurs overcome barriers and bring new ideas to market.”

As many as five startups will be selected for WMN•FINtech, which seeks to help close the sizable gender gap in the technology startup industry. In their program announcement, BMO and 1871 note that only 20% of startups that raised their first funding rounds last year were led by women. To this end, WMN•FINtech will give women entrepreneurs the guidance, working space, and networking opportunities that can enable them to develop their fintech innovations.

1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler called the initiative a “doubling down on women founders focused on solving the hardest finance problems.” The three-month program includes a four-month membership and access to working space at 1871. The program’s curriculum will emphasize key topics such as enterprise sales cycles, vendor management, information security, and regulatory compliance. Participating startups also will benefit from pitch opportunities with venture capital investors.

“The time is now and BMO Harris Bank is the perfect partner given their strength as a financial institution and their long-held mission to provide opportunities for women to come up and be powerful,” Ziegler said.

Program participants also will be eligible to access PYROS, a 13-week series of workshops, seminars, and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Developed specifically for founders, the new initiative from 1871 provides startups with a path to scale their fintech solution or service.

Applications for WMN•FINtech will be accepted through May 11. Eligible companies must have a woman as founder or co-founder and be based in the U.S.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, 1871 is among the top private business incubators in the world. Founded in 2012, the non-profit organization has 350 mentors available to its members, as well as 100+ partner corporations, venture funds, accelerators, and educational institutions. More than 650 of 1871’s alumni companies are active; they have raised more than $1.5 billion in follow-on capital combined.