Why a Former Federal Prosecutor Built a Startup Accelerator for Female Founders [Podcast]

Dave Gerhardt
Dave Gerhardt



Despite the tech industry's reputation for being a community of early adopters, one very important thing has remained stuck in the past: gender equality.

Working in the industry for years in a handful of executive roles, Sue Heilbronner saw this first-hand: "For a lot of my career, I've been the only female in the room. That was true when I was a federal prosecutor, and it's been true as an investor and startup executive. But it never really bothered me until recently." 

So, Sue did what exceptional leaders do: She set out to make a change.

Enter MergeLane: a startup accelerator based in Boulder, CO. Startup accelerators set out to provide early-stage companies with the funding and mentorship they need to get up and running (the two best-known examples are Techstars and Y Combinator). But unlike most accelerators, MergeLane focuses exclusively on companies that have a female founder or executive.

Sue joins me this week on The Growth Show to talk about MergeLane, their mission to work with women-led companies, her career change from being a federal prosecutor, and lessons from great leaders.

Here are a few highlights from this episode (click on the time-stamp to jump to that part of the podcast):

  • Background on MergeLane and startup accelerators (1:30)
  • What led her to start an accelerator focused on women, and why she was initially hesitant to champion this mission (3:30)
  • The best way to build a professional network (9:00)
  • How she re-invented herself in the middle of her career (10:00)
  • How a $10,00 check from a friend led her to start MergeLane (12:30)
  • Why you need to earn leadership, and the qualities of great leaders (15:00)
  • Why she won’t tolerate gossip at work (16:00)
  • The importance of transparency in business and advice for companies looking to make the shift (17:00)
  • The 15 commitments of conscious leadership (20:00)
  • What most companies get wrong with growth (24:00)
  • Leadership issues that women have to face more often than men (30:00)

Click the play button below to listen to this episode in your browser, or subscribe on iTunes to download episodes from your mobile device:

Want more recaps of the latest episodes of The Growth Show? Check 'em out here. 

subscribe to HubSpot's Growth Show podcast

Related Articles

We're committed to your privacy. HubSpot uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

Everything you need to create, record, launch, and promote your podcast.