Inclusive Innovation Leadership Academy


inspire, motivate, influence

Charlotte Inno Coverage

Diverse perspective matters. The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and City Startup Labs want to encourage more diversity among the individuals who mentor local entrepreneurs and make decisions in funding new startup ventures. This collaborative learning program educates, empowers and inspires women and underrepresented minorities to use their leadership expertise to advance an inclusive environment that helps drive North Carolina’s economic growth. Experience in entrepreneurship is not required, but welcomed.
Cohort participants complete four workshops provided by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, City Startup Labs, Georgia Tech Venture Labs, and the NC IDEA Foundation, and serve as reviewers for startups seeking funding through the NC IDEA grant program. Learning culminates with a Match Day with local entrepreneurial programs seeking new volunteers.


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

Applications are Closed for Summer/Fall 2022


  • Underrepresented minority status
  • North Carolina resident
  • 5+ years experience in field
  • Must attend all workshops and serve as a Venture Reviewer (NC IDEA Fall 2022)
  • Interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and commercialization

Questions on eligibility or want to schedule an information session?

Contact Laura Smailes: or 704-687-5675

Summer/Fall 2022 Cohort

Workshops Dates:
July 27th (In-Person Kick-off)
August 9th and 10th (Virtual Academy Days)
August 24th (Virtual NC IDEA Micro Session)
September 14th (Match Day with Innovation Partners; In-Person)

You can also find these dates and their respective times on our events calendar!

Are you an entrepreneur startup organization looking for advisors, mentors, panelists, guest speakers, etc to add to your organization? Sign up for Match Day here

Workshop Overviews

Following a brief entrepreneurial thinking overview/networking opener, participants will experience four dynamic experiential learning sessions, mixing in-person and virtual instruction. The time commitment is minimized, but the learning is maximized! 

Each session is designed to heighten understanding of evidence-based entrepreneurship and leading as a coach mentor. A two-day virtual workshop focuses on big picture scenarios and terminology, followed by a deeper dive on subjects important to entrepreneurs, like the business model canvas. The Day 2 half-day virtual workshop enables participants to select from two break-out tracts: Business Innovation or Entrepreneurship. The third session is a how-to on reviewing grant proposals for participation in the NC IDEA grant review process. The IILA experience wraps up with Match Day, introducing Charlotte-area entrepreneurial ecosystem partners. 

Meet the Summer/Fall 2022 Cohort

The Summer/Fall 2022 Inaugural Cohort has 11 industry leaders ranging from energy to technology development. These leaders will now take their expertise out into the Charlotte start-up community to assist entrepreneurs in developing ideas and scaling their businesses. 

Questions about Academy? Contact the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Devin Collins,