Inaugural Babson Breakaway Challenge Offers Women-Led Companies the Opportunity to Compete for $250,000 Investment and Additional Marketing Services

Babson College and Breakaway to open applications for the largest funding amount ever awarded in a women specific business competition

Babson Breakaway ChallengeBabson College’s Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) and Breakaway, a Boston-based brand capital firm, announced that they will begin accepting applications for the Babson Breakaway Challenge on Monday, October 5, 2015. The objective of the challenge is twofold: help women entrepreneurs see their businesses launch successfully and create opportunities for women to enter the venture capital industry.

​ Babson College’s most recent Diana Project report, Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital, revealed that while women entrepreneurs are majority owners of nearly 36 percent of all U.S. businesses, they receive only 2.7 percent of venture capital funding. The Babson Breakaway Challenge was created by Susan Duffy, Executive Director at Babson’s Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership, and John Burns, Chief Investment Officer at Breakaway, in direct response to the report’s troubling statistics.

“This unique competition grew directly from two key Diana Project findings demonstrating that less than three percent of all women-led businesses receive venture capital funding, and that there is a declining number of women decision-makers in the venture capital community,” said Susan Duffy. “The Babson Breakaway Challenge takes an innovative approach to the traditional business plan competition by providing a much-needed solution to both sides of the funding equation: exceptional women entrepreneurs with winning business ideas, and exceptional women venture capitalists able to fund them.”

The Babson Breakaway Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition and mentoring program that promotes gender parity while championing women entrepreneurs and aspiring venture capitalists. The winning entrepreneur team will receive $250,000 for their business—the largest amount of funding awarded in a business competition for women—as well as marketing services, including the creation of a customized brand identity platform. The Babson Breakaway Challenge is open to consumer businesses where at least 50 percent of the founding team are women active in the company, have less than $500,000 in revenue, cannot have raised more than $250,000 in outside funding by March 30, 2016, and have the ability to participate in the Challenge’s programming that takes place in New England.

Fifteen semifinalists and six VCAs will receive hands-on, in-depth mentoring from experienced, successful venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and have the opportunity to pitch their business plan and participate in the venture capitalist process. From there, six entrepreneur finalists will be selected for a six-week, one-on-one mentoring program leading up to the final pitch on March 30, 2016.

In addition to the business competition, the Babson Breakaway Challenge is also looking for women to apply to the program as potential venture capital apprentices (VCAs). Six VCA nominees will work alongside the entrepreneur teams and mentors to help refine the business pitch for the March gala. The highest-performing VCA will receive an internship at Breakaway to continue their career in their field.

“Upon learning of the gender gap in venture capital through the Diana Project, I knew Breakaway could do more to promote women-led businesses and to mentor women venture capitalists,” said John Burns. “I believe that a big part of the problem, and the best place to start, is at the top of the funnel – and this collaboration with Babson, local entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, is an enticing way to get more women pitching for, and receiving, capital.”

Key Dates

  • October 5, 2015 – January 5, 2016: Entrepreneurs and aspiring VCAs submit applications at
  • January 15, 2016: Fifteen semi-finalist entrepreneurs and six VCAs candidates announced.
  • February 3, 2016: Boot Camp - Workshops and discussions with guest facilitators to prepare semi-finalist entrepreneurs for their pitches and to provide aspiring venture capitalists exposure to the venture capital process.
  • February 10, 2016: Demo Day - Semi-finalist entrepreneurs pitch to a panel of judges. Each judge selects one entrepreneur team to work with, narrowing the field from 15 semi-finalists to six finalists.
  • February 15 – March 25, 2016: Mentoring program - Judges with his/her entrepreneur team and one venture capital apprentice for six weeks to coach the team through key aspects of business planning and prepare for the ultimate pitch at the end of March. Venture capital apprentices will gain access to the judges’ thought process and approach to working with start-ups.
  • March 30, 2016: Gala Showcase Event - Finalists pitch their company one last time before a panel of judges. Judges select the winner and award the $250,000 grand prize.

About Breakaway

Breakaway is a brand capital firm that is based in Boston. The company’s unique platform is composed of a combination of strategy, creative, activation, talent, and investment to help entrepreneurial brands see opportunities others can’t and implement ideas others won’t. For more information on Breakaway, visit

About the Babson Breakaway Challenge

The Babson Breakaway Challenge is a competition and mentoring program that promotes gender parity while championing women entrepreneurs and aspiring venture capitalists. The Challenge finalists—six start-ups and six venture capital apprentices—receive six weeks of intensive mentoring from top thought-leaders, and the program culminates with a final pitch showcase on March 30, 2016. Breakaway will award the winning startup with $250,000 in funding and a brand identity platform, as well as extend summer internship offers to the top performing venture capital apprentices.

About the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College

Founded in 2000, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) ​at Babson College fulfills and extends Babson’s mission by educating, inspiring, and empowering women entrepreneurial leaders to reach their full potential to create economic and social value for themselves, their organizations, and society. The Center does this through innovative education programs, events, and by supporting and widely disseminating research about the unique skills and experiences of women entrepreneurial leaders. Additionally, CWEL supports and advances gender equality as a growth strategy for individuals and for organizations of all sizes, everywhere in the world.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds​​​​​​​​​​​​®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought and Action​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

By Brianna DiPietro,, (781) 239-4548 | 9/30/2015 8:00 AM