For decades, the amount of funding invested in minority founders of technology startups has consistently remained low in comparison to other ethnic groups. Many times, Black founders have fewer resources and access to capital than their counterparts.
Overall, there is a low percentage of tech startups launched by black founders that secure venture capital in the United States. However, Minority Innovation Weekend alongside Comcast are working to change the lack of resources afforded to technology startups launched by African-American founders that are current students or alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Early next year, the Comcast HBCU Tech Weekend will host, educate, and provide funding to technology-focused start-ups that are founded by current students or alumni of HBCU’s.
“It is proven that investing in innovators and founders of color is an important step in closing the racial wealth gap. Therefore, providing resources to strengthen these leaders is a part of our commitment and approach to creating more equitable and sustainable routes to successful opportunities,” Jessica Gappa said.
Coppin State University, an HBCU in Baltimore, Maryland and HBCU partner for the Comcast HBCU Tech Startup weekend, understands the problem surrounding the lack of black-owned tech companies. According to a June 2021 report by McKinsey & Coo., less than two percent of tech companies in the US are black-owned.
Ron Williams, the founding director for Coppin’s center for Strategic Entrepreneurship says tech startups are significant drivers of the overall economy, and that includes innovators of color.
“My hope is that the Comcast HBCU Tech Startup weekend will provide an opportunity for the best and brightest thinkers and practitioners to discuss concrete solutions to the lack of significant Black presence in the sector,” Williams said.
Research proves that tech start-ups need to be supported to increase the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Most importantly, the founders and sponsors of the HBCU Tech Startup weekend believe that investment is the key. “Anyone serious about improving the socioeconomic position in a community must invest. That includes investment in oneself and others. Those who have the capacity and fail to invest forfeit the ability to declare sincere interest in the wellbeing and advancement of those in whom they have failed to invest,” Williams said.
As conversations spark surrounding social justice across the country, black founders are in the spotlight. However, researchers argue that once the discussions surrounding racial equality decrease the spotlight will too. “The grim projection presents a real threat if we do not determine ways to spur investment. I am concerned that the current increase in investment in Black businesses, technology-focused and otherwise, will not extend beyond the current attention to social justice issues. There must be a strategy to counter a less favorable climate for investment into businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color in the tech space,” Williams said.
Most importantly, the Comcast HBCU startup weekend will include various workshops to educate, motivate, and provide resources to black-owned tech startups. Joycelyn Brown, the managing partner at IPS Legal group is one of many experts that will provide a workshop for attendees.
“The attendees of the Comcast HBCU Tech Startup Weekend will be able to walk away with information that will help propel the growth and success of their business,” Brown said.
Brown has always used her platform to share her experiences and knowledge. She hopes that she can contribute to the personal development and business growth of others. Essentially, she strives to bridge the gap surrounding the wide disparities in the size and success of minority-owned startups.
“The tech startup community needs input and contributions from people of diverse backgrounds with varying creative perspectives to inspire future innovation. We need minority founders to launch tech-focused startups because their creative input is imperative to the community, economic, and innovative advancements,” Brown said.
The Comcast HBCU Tech Weekend 2022 Pitch Competition & Innovation Marketplace will showcase tech-focused startups that have been launched by a founder of color or by founding teams that include a co-founder of color and are current students or Alumni of an HBCU. The Pitch Competition & Innovation Marketplace is scheduled to occur in February 2022. All tech startup founders that are current students or alumni of an HBCU are invited to apply.
Each applicant should be:
- A U.S. citizen,
- From early-stage tech-focused company. A tech-focused startup is a company whose purpose is to bring technology products or services to market. These companies deliver new technology products or services or deliver existing technology products or services in new ways,
- A founder of color or co-founder of color,
- A current student or Alumni of an Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
Each team in the Innovation Marketplace will have 5 minutes to pitch judges and potential investors. After each pitch, judges will be given 10 minutes to ask questions. The Grand Prize is 20,000 dollars.
Are you a Founder or Co-Founder of Color that is a current student or alumni of an HBCU? The application for the Comcast HBCU Tech Weekend Pitch Competition Application is located here: https://www.minorityinnovationweekend.org/news/comcast-hbcu-tech-weekend-2022-pcim/.