Inclusive Business Accelerators and Grants for Startups
A three-part series
This feature is the first in a three-part series entitled “Inclusive Business Accelerators: Startup Support for Entrepreneurs of Color and Women.” Read the second feature here and the third feature here.
In the Innovation Quarter, we strive to support, facilitate and amplify opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs and drive economic impact by advancing an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Yet, even with startup activity on the rise across all sectors—especially in healthtech—we know that entrepreneurs of color remain underrepresented when it comes to access and support—from securing capital to finding mentors and community and connecting with other women or minority venture capitalists.
Black and African American startup entrepreneurs received only a tiny fraction—1.2%—of the record $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of 2021.
So, what does it take for entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs to not only start a business but to thrive and grow as an owner and community member? Fueled intentionality.
Bridging this gap, rooted in systemic, social, economic, and historical inequality and injustice, requires listening to and understanding the unique challenges entrepreneurs of color and women face to create solutions that best serve them.
Here’s how HUSTLE Winston-Salem, New Ventures, and the Flywheel Foundation, partners in and around the Innovation Quarter, are working together to reduce disparities by supporting entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs.
The Come Up
An Accelerator for Black and Brown Founders
[accelerator [ak-sel-uh-rey-ter] noun. A startup or business accelerator is a program that gives developing companies access to mentorship, investors and other support that help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses.]
In 2015, Black entrepreneurs Magalie Yacinthe, C. Fay Horwitt, and J. Matthew Williams met at Flywheel Coworking, where they collectively recognized a lack of access to information and resources—everything from mentorship and support to capital and physical space—for founders of color. Although resources did and do exist in Winston-Salem’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, the pathway is not always clear for all, so they decided to lead the charge for change.
From there, HUSTLE Winston-Salem was born. Horwitt, Williams, and Yacinthe immediately connected with Kellie P. Easton, Daryl Shaw, and Tonya Sheffield to execute the organization’s mission.
Since its inception, HUSTLE has been a force of positive turbulence to challenge and shape systems and share stories to expose barriers and work towards bridging the gap of entrepreneurial inequality while providing resources to women, people of color, and those in marginalized business districts.
When Flywheel Foundation approached HUSTLE about a partnership to expand their New Ventures accelerator program—one of the only inception-stage, investor-led startup accelerators in the southeast—by facilitating an accelerator that centers on diversity and inclusion in Winston-Salem. Yacinthe, the interim director of HUSTLE, and her team agreed to take on the opportunity.
HUSTLE chose to focus on getting capital directly in the hands of Black and Brown entrepreneurs and rebranding the Winston-Salem-based accelerator program to attract underrepresented communities. Flywheel supported this idea fully, and a new accelerator for founders of color was launched in the spring of 2021.
In 2020, Black and Latinx women founders received less than half a percent (0.43%) of total VC investment. And their share of total investment continues to shrink.
The result? The Come Up, an industry-agnostic startup accelerator for Black and Brown founders, powered by New Ventures and led by HUSTLE to bring in investors, subject matter experts and mentors who know what it’s like to build a company as a person of color.
This new accelerator is still in its fundraising stage, but semifinalists have been selected for the inaugural year, and these twenty startups are currently going through funding rounds with investors. The goal is to provide five finalists with $50K in equity investments. The accelerator team is narrowing the semifinalists to the top ten companies that will pitch to investors and become the five finalists to participate as the inaugural cohort for The Come Up.
HUSTLE plans to focus even more on inclusive investments in 2022 by partnering with groups like Equilibrium and Forward Cities to host an inclusive investment summit. Yacinthe believes that a key to elevating and supporting founders of color is to bring more investors of color into conversations about startups and capital, including getting more people of color to become accredited investors.
Venture firms in the United States invest over
$130 billion annually. However, Black and African American
investors have systematically been excluded from
mobilizing this capital.
Today, only 3% of venture capital investors are Black.
Only 2% of partners—individuals that make investment
decisions at venture firms—are Black.
Yacinthe also recognizes that historically, founders of color have reasons not to trust those who want to invest in their companies, which usually comes in exchange for equity.
She asserts that we “need more voices and different voices at the table” to alleviate disparities and improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem for all.
“Our goal is to create a space where people of color can come and just be. Be creative, be innovative, feel comfortable in that creativity and innovation.
And trust.” —Magalie Yacinthe
She hopes to influence more and more investors to take something other than ownership in exchange for this support, which is why she’s working closely with community partners like the AI Studio and Equilibrium Impact Venture to bring attention to the importance of social capital.
She’s also working to improve access to resources by creating physical spaces for communities outside of the downtown business area, including areas in east, north, and southeast Winston-Salem.