Entrepreneurs

This Program Supports The Ecosystem Supporting Founders Of Color

It’s pretty well known that founders of color receive a lot less startup funding than white peers. But organizations that support such entrepreneurs, especially those also led by people of color, also lack funding. And they raise a lot less money than similar organizations run by whites.

With that in mind, Village Capital and the Black Innovation Alliance recently launched Resource, a program supporting incubators and accelerators led by and focused on founders of color. In other words, more robust ecosystems will help forge more robust startups, especially for organizations run by people of color.

“We’re building a strong entrepreneurial infrastructure for Black, Latinx and Indigenous founders throughout the U.S.,” says Dahlia Joseph, platform manager, global ventures at Village Capital.

Village Capital runs early-stage startup accelerators and boot camps for social enterprises, aimed at driving more investment to entrepreneurs from under-represented groups. Black Innovation Alliance works with small businesses, startups founders and technologists to build an ecosystem supporting Black innovators.

Village Capital has previously run programs supporting ecosystem supporters, but they didn’t focus on founders of color. And, especially over the past year, multiple programs for entrepreneurs of color have started up, but they haven’t addressed the needs of the larger ecosystem.

With financing from such funders as Moody’s, UBS, Travelers and the Sorenson Impact Foundation, topics covered everything from fundraising strategies to curriculum design, since most accelerators offer some classwork. The first six-month program, with 13 accelerators and incubators, will finish up next month. But after that, the cohort will check in monthly with facilitators.

Mock Board Meetings

Members of the cohort include such organizations as five-year-old DivInc, which last year launched its Social Justice Innovation Accelerator aimed at startups advancing social justice and racial equality, and Collab Studio, which provides support and resources to Black founders and entrepreneurs.

One participant is Liz Gamboa, executive director of New Mexico Community Capital. She joined the program looking for ways to restart the Native Entrepreneur in Residence (NEIR) program, which ran from 2014 to 2019, trying to find new approaches that would appeal to funders and grantors. She decided to focus on management, marketing and financials, the elements of the original program that seemed to be the most critical, turning what had been a six-month-course to a three-month-long offering. It’s still to be determined whether she’ll develop a second, three-month program or transition eventually back to six months.

During mock board meetings, advisors helped Gamboa refine her plan. Especially helpful were the insights of one expert, who discussed her experiences as a funder and what she looks for in proposals. “I don’t know what funders are thinking,” says Gamboa. “It was really good to hear that.”

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