Series Sponsor: Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab

This case study series was made possible by the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL). The Multicultural Innovation Lab – Morgan Stanley’s in-house accelerator program for women and multicultural entrepreneurs – helps technology and tech-enabled startups scale to the next level with connections, a curated 5-month curriculum, and $250,000 investment from Morgan Stanley. Learn more about the program here.

Elise Smith, a participant in Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and CEO of Praxis Labs, spoke to The Plug about launching the company’s first product during the accelerator. Founded in 2019, Praxis Labs is a JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) focused learning and development company.

Smith said she’s grown as a leader since the MCIL and was excited to share Praxis Lab’s mission to make society more equitable by helping every individual employee show up as a conscious and inclusive leader. They accomplish this by using immersive learning experiences in virtual reality and mixed reality, paired with learning and reflection on their platform to provide actionable insights to learners and client partners.

“I knew we needed to take the company to the next level, and I felt like MCIL could be the program to get us there,” Smith said. “Not only did I recognize the potential for partnership with Morgan Stanley for the product, but I was also inspired by the Lab’s leadership and previous participants.”

Initially, Smith didn’t think she was ready to participate but quickly acclimated to growing the company and implementing the lessons from the program.

“We raised our seed round while we were in the Lab. We also developed our first product and launched it as the Lab was wrapping up,” she said. “The Lab was a part of so many key pieces of the beginning of the company.”              

It was a personalized focus on improving Praxis Labs that had a lasting impact on the company’s trajectory and product launch.

I was surprised by how dedicated the [Morgan Stanley] team was to Praxis Labs’ success—to my cofounder’s and my success. I was meeting with people from Morgan Stanley who were asking questions and giving helpful feedback. We were making connections that were valuable to our company.”

Beyond helping the company, Smith says participating in the Lab also helped her as a leader. As the program progressed so did Smith’s belief in herself and her confidence in her capabilities.

“I was coached on leadership and what it means to be the CEO of a startup. I was encouraged by others in the Lab, and that was really powerful too.”

One of the greatest accomplishments in the program was launching Pivotal Experiences, Praxis Labs’ flagship learning journey, and closing a’ $3.2 million seed round, which the company secured while they were in the Lab. The company is actively hiring.

“Our company is dramatically different from when we joined the Lab. Yet, we still meet people with members of the Lab, and they have been such a value add to our company.”

One of the most important lessons Smith has for diverse founders is to believe in oneself.

Know that at the end of the day, you are brilliant and talented and have a vision of something that should be out in the world. Keep pushing towards it,” Smith said. “I would also encourage founders to find a community who can encourage and support them. It takes a village!”

Series Sponsor: Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab

This case study series was made possible by the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab. Their in-house startup accelerator promotes financial inclusion and provides access to capital for early-stage technology and tech-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. Learn more about the program here.