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  • Carlsen Center, FourthWave team to support women-led firms


    Angie Gelli from NanoCERE, Kim Box of Safer Lock, and Elizabeth Dodson of HomeZada, were all part of the first cohort participating in FourthWave’s program to support women-led tech companies. Sacramento State’s Carlsen Center is collaborating with FourthWave to further boost the effort. (Photo courtesy of FourthWave)

    By Dixie Reid

    The Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is moving into a brighter spotlight as it enters into collaboration meant to boost women-led businesses.

    The partnership with FourthWave will not only provide needed opportunities for Sacramento State students and tech companies helmed by women, it has potential to significantly raise the Carlsen Center’s profile.

    “This puts us on a much larger stage and signals our commitment to diversity and equity by supporting women-led businesses,” said Cameron Law, the center’s executive director, whose goals have included uniting it with the greater innovative community.

    Cameron Law, executive director of the Carlsen Center, says the collaboration with FourthWave signals "commitment to diversity and equity." (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

    Nancy Perlman, who founded FourthWave to be an accelerator for women-led tech companies, said that the nonprofit “is committed to changing the narrative around gender equity, and we believe that a core part of the story is seen through an economic lens.”

    Law detailed how the Carlsen Center fits in.

    “Our specific role is to extend FourthWave’s network of mentors, advisors, subject-matter experts, and investors, as well as serve as hands-on support to execute the program,” he said. “And, as the Carlsen Center continues to serve as a hub for the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, we will act as a megaphone to ensure that opportunities extend to women entrepreneurs across the region.”

    FourthWave is accepting applications from women-led technology companies for the 16-week 2020 Accelerator Program, which begins Thursday, July 23. Most of the program will be conducted virtually because of COVID-19 and will conclude with an investor salon hosted by the Carlsen Center during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November.

    Applications for the FourthWave program are being accepted through Tuesday, June 30, on the company’s website at

    The program’s objective is to provide businesswomen with mentors and the capital that will allow them to grow to the next level.

    As part of the collaboration, two Sacramento State students will be chosen to receive Women’s Innovation Fellowships as part of a FourthWave Leadership Fellows Program. The students will work with FourthWave to connect with successful female business founders, get firsthand experience with start-up companies, and build their leadership skills.

    Students interested in fellowships should email Law at for more information.

    “The first cohort of participating companies, in 2017, went on to raise more than $10 million in funding,” Law said. “That speaks to the prestige of the program and the caliber of entrepreneurs the Carlsen Center will now be able to support.”

    Sixty percent of companies to be chosen for the accelerator program will be headquartered in the Sacramento region or are willing to relocate to the region, according to FourthWave. Others that are selected may have an interest in relocating to this area.

    Sacramento is a national leader in women-owned tech startups.

    New findings from the Female Founder Initiative, powered by the Founder Institute, show that Sacramento is tied with New York City as the second-friendliest city in the country for female tech entrepreneurs. Both have a 71 percent female-founder ratio, surpassed only by Washington, D.C., with 75 percent ratio.

    In 2017, the Center for American Entrepreneurship Analysis of Pitchbook Data declared Sacramento the top city in the nation for women-founded businesses.

    A recent study underwritten by JP Morgan Chase shows that companies participating in an acceleration program typically raise eight times the amount of capital over companies that don’t. Women represent just 14 percent of the businesses in incubators and accelerator programs, the study shows.

    Perlman launched what’s now called FourthWave in 2016 in Los Angeles, after serving as a Goldhirsh Fellow in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. Her idea was to model a mentor program for female entrepreneurs with a focus on technology.

    “We know that investing in women is one of the most effective ways to reduce inequality and increase economic growth,” she said. “FourthWave enables entrepreneurs to chart a new course in business culture with innovative curriculum designed to facilitate our entrepreneurs’ growth as impactful, conscious leaders.”

    FourthWave expanded to Sacramento in 2017, courtesy of a grant from Sacramento’s RAILS (Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento) fund. One of FourthWave’s co-founders, Cheryl Beninga, serves on the Carlsen Center’s advisory board.

    “The first cohort of women-led tech companies yielded a tremendous impact for our region,” Law said. “The partnership between FourthWave and the Carlsen Center helped to revive the conversation and put wheels in motion to launch the second cohort this year.

    “A key focus is to signal to the region and beyond that Sacramento is a home for women founders and that by investing in them, we can reduce inequality and increase economic growth. I believe that this partnership is the essence of what it means for Sacramento State to be an Anchor University.”

    The Carlsen Center and StartUpSac host a virtual happy hour at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, for discussion of the FourthWave Accelerator program. More information about the event can be found on the Carlsen Center page of Sac State's website, and on the FourthWave website. FourthWave co-founder Cheryl Beninga, and Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain, will be featured guests.

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