Why L’Oréal Got Into the NY Accelerator Scene with Grand Central Tech

We have seen beauty and personal care products maker L’Oréal USA put its support towards women in technology before; now the company is lending yet another hand in helping to nurture startups.

Early this month, L’Oréal entered into a partnership to work with the Grand Central Tech accelerator based in New York.

The company has not sponsored accelerators this way before, says Rachel Weiss, vice president of digital innovation for L’Oréal USA, though it does have relationships with incubators and similar programs. “We’ve been passionate about emerging businesses and startups,” she says.

This means L’Oréal—joining other founding partners Google, IBM, Microsoft, PepsiCo, and others—will offer mentorship and other support to the startups in the Grand Central Tech program. Weiss says she will be part of the review process for many of the applications for the accelerator’s forthcoming class.

The Grand Central Tech accelerator, which is just about one-year-old, takes no equity in the startups it accepts. The fledgling companies also get one year of rent-free space at Facebook’s former New York headquarters, located near Grand Central Terminal. (Facebook moved its New York team downtown to Astor Place.) Grand Central Tech last summer launched its first class of 17 startups and is taking applications for the next batch.

Under the partnership, there will be a bit of hands-on mentoring from L’Oréal, Weiss says. The startups in the accelerator will get some coaching in diversity training from Angela Guy, L’Oréal USA’s senior vice president of diversity and inclusion. The company also plans to host in April a search engine optimization workshop for the startups already with the accelerator. “Just throwing money on the table isn’t going to grow this space,” Weiss says.

In addition to L’Oréal offering guidance through the accelerator, women-led startups that are accepted into Grand Central Tech will also automatically be in the running for L’Oréal USA’s Women in Digital NEXT Generation Awards.

Each year the company selects three up-and-coming tech businesses run by female founders to potentially collaborate with L’Oréal in pilot programs.

The partnership with Grand Central Tech is one of the various ways L’Oréal has put its two cents in on the city’s innovation scene—particularly regarding women in technology.

This is also part of the broader effort to encourage more women to get into and stick with the tech industry, Weiss says. That includes more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for young women and building a community of role models for future generations of female innovators. “We have to be in a culture of collaboration; we don’t want to do this in a vacuum,” she says.

About four or five years ago, L’Oréal saw a gap in its narrative when it came to innovation in digital, Weiss says, and figuring out who would drive the next steps in technology. That led to the Women in Digital program, she says.

Working with startups and innovators from diverse backgrounds is a way for L’Oréal to remain competitive, she says, and called such efforts a business imperative for the company.

Partnering with Grand Central Tech fit those plans, she says. “They’re really birthing a new kind of accelerator with diversity at the heart of it,” Weiss says. “It’s about supporting women, people of color, and veterans.”

Trending on Xconomy