Best Accelerators For Minority Startups and Small Businesses To Get Funding

accelerators

Studies show the survival rate of companies that go through an accelerator are three times than that of companies that don’t. What’s more, research shows companies that completed an accelerator program grew faster than companies that didn’t.

People sometimes use the phrase “business accelerator” as another term for “business incubator.” Incubators fundamentally provide a physical office space and basic business services. However, most accelerators are characterized by an open application process: the selective acceptance of various entrepreneurs for short, fixed-length classes, with graduation and demo “pitch” days, as well as the provision of mentors and seed funding.

Elite tech accelerators—such as Y Combinator, Techstars, and 500 Startups—recently have kicked off diversity initiatives, like “open office hours” for diverse founders, mentorship programs, and investment commitments.

Accelerators Focusing on Minority Entrepreneurs

Dreamit Ventures has been diversity focused for years; it operates four seed accelerators in Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, and Austin, and has launched more than 200 companies that have raised $275 million at combined valuations of more than $1 billion. In 2011, Dreamit partnered with Comcast Ventures to launch Dreamit Access, which offers coaching, mentorship, seed funding, and access to opportunities, specifically for minority-led startups.

It was the NewME Accelerator that pioneered diversity in Silicon Valley. The residential technology startup accelerator has helped underrepresented founders collectively raise more than $20 million in venture capital funding. Since 2011, NewME has accelerated more than 300 startups through its 12-week program in San Francisco and its national three-day program in cities nationwide.

PowerMoves, a national initiative to increase the number of venture-backed, high-growth, high-tech companies led by entrepreneurs of color, opened an accelerator in Miami this February. PowerMoves began in 2014 as a program to position New Orleans as a hub for entrepreneurs of color. In just one year, it has nationally sourced 100 companies led by founders of color from 26 major cities across the country, and it has helped secure more than $17 million in capital commitments.

PowerMoves Miami offers year-round programming, including pitch competitions, boot camps, networking events, and fellowships. “With the help of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (a $1.2 million investment), we decided to launch a physical presence, not just a three-day convening in Miami,” says Janelle Alexander, Managing Director of PowerMoves Miami.

Black Enterprise’s 2016 Techpreneur of the Year nominee, Brian Brackeen, graduated from the NewME Accelerator’s second class in 2012. Brackeen is the Founder and CEO of Kairos, an innovative facial recognition company in Miami.

Brackeen is quick to point out that accelerators have evolved in recent years. “If you are in the fashion business, get into a fashion accelerator, because their network will be more helpful and carry more weight,” he advises other entrepreneurs.

“New York City, for instance, has several fashion and design labs, incubators, and accelerators. Look at how that program can add value. Who are the people in their network? At the end of the day, it’s all about people,” Brackeen says. “Seed money—$25,000 or $100,000—is important, but it’s about the relationships and introductions to people who can help grow your customer base and boost your revenue stream.”

#DrivingInnovation: Twitter Chat Provides Platform for Entrepreneurs to Discuss Diversity in Tech

Two years after the airing of CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land—Silicon Valley, BlackEnterprise.com hosted a Twitter chat, sponsored by Toyota, to discuss diversity in technology. “DrivingInnovation: Diversity in Tech,” which featured co-founder and CEO of NewME Accelerator Angela Benton, branding expert Hajj Flemings, who is founder and CEO of Brand Camp University, as well as co-founder of Student Ventures, Tiffani Bell, CEO and founder of Pencil You In, and Anthony Frasier, co-founder of The Phat Startup and co-founder of Brick City Tech, gathered the inaugural NewME participants to talk about their experience in Silicon Valley, tips to securing seed funding, how to get the next generation motivated about STEM, and what the savvy entrepreneurs have been up to after the series. The Twitter chat provided a platform for tech enthusiasts, startup founders/co-founders and business leaders, among others to discuss the current tech ecosystem, and became a trending topic on Twitter during the hour-long conversation. Check out what chat participants had to say about the tech landscape in our Storify:

Black Web 2.0 Relaunches As B20, New Layout and Groundbreaking Content

 

Formerly known as Black Web 2.0, B20 commits to featuring innovators transforming the tech space (Image: B20)

Angela Benton, CEO of Black Web Media and founder of NewME Accelerator, started Black Web 2.0 at a time when tech news sites and niche and mainstream media failed to highlight innovators of color. Six years since the groundbreaking site hit the web, Benton announced its relaunch as B20, an online zine under NewME, on Tuesday.

A tweet sent from the @BlackWeb20 account solidified the news of the outlet’s return:

Back by popular demand, B20 will share the stories of entrepreneurs, startups and businesses, as well as give greater insight into the lives of innovators and content creators revolutionizing today’s tech ecosystem. Alongside co-founder Markus Robinson, Benton and the B20 team will deliver what readers have missed since Black Web 2.0 went on hiatus.

“I hadn’t thought of relaunching Black Web 2.0 until I started to get email, after email, after email.  It’s easy to shrug off one person interested in bringing the site back, but I received tons of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages,” wrote Benton in her ‘Welcome Back’ address. “That first person I heard from was not alone.  So, I took note and really tried to think of what exactly the evolution of Black Web 2.0 would be.  It would have been easy to relaunch and do more of the same, but the landscape had changed.  We aren’t in a time where ZERO media outlets (mainstream and multicultural) want to cover what we were doing in technology anymore.  It’s funny to think back about Black Web 2.0 really innovating and disrupting what was being featured.”

B20 launched with features on celebrity blogger and Black Enterprise Black Blogger Month 2011 honoree Necole “Bitchie” Kane and Brooklyn-born entrepreneur Frederick Hutson.

Benton ended her written address with “I hope you will be inspired to dream bigger, bolder, and with purpose.” I don’t know about you, but I’m already feeling motivated by the in-depth features on the site and excited to see what B20 has in store.

Have you checked out B20? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Tech Startup of the Week: Citizen Made Lets Manufacturers Customize Products for Less

Citizen Made is the ecommerce platform for brands that make custom products (Image: Citizen Made)

Not every business is like Burger King. You can’t always “have it your way.” But now Citizen Made, a new e-commerce platform, is making it increasingly easier for brands and customers to create custom products online.

Traditionally, the online shopping process has been linear. For example, in the past, if a seller posted an image of a bike, the buyer could choose to buy it as is, or hunt through pages and pages of web posts on the seller’s site or on other sites to find the style of bike they wanted in the right color–with the right frame, seat, speed, and handle bars.

Unfortunately, for the seller, that search might take the buyer away from her page causing her to lose a sale. Even if the seller is able to customize the bike based on the buyer’s verbal or written instructions, the buyer will never see the finished product until after it’s built and paid for.

“There is a large set of brands and manufacturers that sell configurable or customizable products, but are unable to participate in e-commerce simply because…the experience of mixing, matching, and adding on options is generally unavailable,” says Rachel Brooks, who developed Citizen Made. “We aim to provide software tools so that [any brand is] able to open their business to the world via the Internet.”

With Citizen Made, the buyer can mix and match features to create, for example, the bike they’ve always dreamed of, without leaving the seller’s page; and Citizen Made produces an illustration that is a carbon copy of what the end product will look like before they even spend a dime.

While websites that allow shoppers to customize products aren’t new, it’s often been a costly, time consuming venture, especially for small, independent businesses. Citizen Made makes it possible for business owners to produce custom products online without having to learn any development skills to build it themselves or outsource the project to software development agencies who have pricey fees, says Brooks, who traveled to Silicon Valley to participate in the widely-acclaimed NewMe Accelerator.

Citizen Made licenses the software to businesses for a monthly fee that is tiered based on the number of transactions a company has within the context of the software. They also charge an initial setup fee for enterprise clients, which covers their unique needs for integration at scale.

NewME Alum Hank Williams Launches New Venture, Platform

Serial tech entrepreneur Hank Williams announced yesterday his newest venture, Platform, a not-for-profit organization he founded with the Tides Center and several unnamed technologists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists who are dedicated to increasing the participation and success of underrepresented minorities in the innovation economy. The launch event was hosted at the home of celebrated business women and philanthropists Loida Lewis and her daughter Christina Lewis Halpern, who run the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which is dedicated to the memory of the first black man to head a billion dollar business empire.

“The problem is in 2013 the innovation economy, is the economy,” said Williams, a graduate of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, which became a part of the series Black in America 4: The New Promised Land. “If all the significant growth that we expect going forward is coming from fields in which vasts blocks of people have no participation or engagement, then we are heading for trouble.”

One of Platform’s first endeavors, Platform Summit, will take place July 12-14, 2013 at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The invite-only gathering will bring together 30 of the world’s foremost thinkers across various fields as speakers to explore new ideas, highlight and model success stories, and accrue tactical resources toward the goal of fostering the kind of innovation-driven prosperity that has escaped blacks, Latinos, and women.

While The Platform Summit will consist of no more than 300 invite-only attendees, the event will model the video-driven conference format made famous by TED Talks and be video-recorded and distributed through Platform.org. The intent is to reach millions as the anchor of a new movement. Mae Jemison, Quincy Jones, and Tavis Smiley are among the more notable speakers at the summit, but technology industry veterans like William Crowder, of DreamIt Ventures; Jessie Woolley-Wilson, of DreamBox Learning; and Charles Hudson of Bionic Panda will also be providing innovative insights and thought-provoking talks.

Google and the S. Ahmad-Llewellyn Family Foundation have signed on as the summit’s first sponsors. Williams is hoping that other individuals and institutional partners will join in the coming weeks. In fact, at the launch, he solicited guests with the hopes of signing up 50 founding members who will make a $5,000 financial contribution to Platform’s inaugural summit. In return, they’ll receive a lifelong membership to the organization.

NewME Alum Hank Williams Launches New Venture, Platform

Serial tech entrepreneur Hank Williams announced yesterday his newest venture, Platform, a not-for-profit organization he founded with the Tides Center and several unnamed technologists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists who are dedicated to increasing the participation and success of underrepresented minorities in the innovation economy. The launch event was hosted at the home of celebrated business women and philanthropists Loida Lewis and her daughter Christina Lewis Halpern, who run the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which is dedicated to the memory of the first black man to head a billion dollar business empire.

“The problem is in 2013 the innovation economy, is the economy,” said Williams, a graduate of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, which became a part of the series Black in America 4: The New Promised Land. “If all the significant growth that we expect going forward is coming from fields in which vasts blocks of people have no participation or engagement, then we are heading for trouble.”

One of Platform’s first endeavors, Platform Summit, will take place July 12-14, 2013 at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The invite-only gathering will bring together 30 of the world’s foremost thinkers across various fields as speakers to explore new ideas, highlight and model success stories, and accrue tactical resources toward the goal of fostering the kind of innovation-driven prosperity that has escaped blacks, Latinos, and women.

While The Platform Summit will consist of no more than 300 invite-only attendees, the event will model the video-driven conference format made famous by TED Talks and be video-recorded and distributed through Platform.org. The intent is to reach millions as the anchor of a new movement. Mae Jemison, Quincy Jones, and Tavis Smiley are among the more notable speakers at the summit, but technology industry veterans like William Crowder, of DreamIt Ventures; Jessie Woolley-Wilson, of DreamBox Learning; and Charles Hudson of Bionic Panda will also be providing innovative insights and thought-provoking talks.

Google and the S. Ahmad-Llewellyn Family Foundation have signed on as the summit’s first sponsors. Williams is hoping that other individuals and institutional partners will join in the coming weeks. In fact, at the launch, he solicited guests with the hopes of signing up 50 founding members who will make a $5,000 financial contribution to Platform’s inaugural summit. In return, they’ll receive a lifelong membership to the organization.

NewME Accelerator Announces Pop-Up Tour Schedule

Calling all tech startups: NewME Accelerator may be coming to a city near you.

The startup incubation program geared toward underrepresented minorities in the tech world announced its eight-city tour on Wednesday. The three-night version of the 12-week intensive program will start in Washington, DC on March 1 and hit NYC, LA, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Detroit, and Durham.

For $149, entrepreneurs will receive incomparable opportunities for mentorship, exposure, and education, as well as rub shoulders with industry experts and special guests. The tour concludes with Demo Day where participants pitch to top investors for a chance to win a $25,000 service prize pack.

DC’s lineup of speakers includes NewME Accelerator Founder and CEO Angela Benton, Vice President of Investments and Revolution Ventures David Hall and CEO of iStrategy Labs Peter Corbett. To check out the program or register, visit the NewME Accelerator website.

News of the tour comes two days after NewME’s Spring 2013 startups were announced. Cycle 4 includes a diverse group of startup founders:  Adrian Walker of Rippld, Frederick Hutson of Fotopigeon, Brandon Rivers of Fanmeetr, Have1OnMe founder Marco Aponte, DigitalMunch’s Lin Tam, Steven Otu of VocalTap and SoClick’s Justin Dawkins.

‘Black in America’: Chris Bennett, One Year Later

Chris Bennett recalls the feedback he received for his company, Soldsie, while participating in the NewMe Accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Last November, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien explored Silicon Valley through the eyes of eight African-American entrepreneurs. All participants of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, the Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley cast invited viewers into their journey as startup founders competing in an industry comprised of less than 1% of entrepreneurs that look like them. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the tech innovators to see what they’ve been up to one year later.

Chris Bennett is a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School graduate and serial entrepreneur, with expertise in finance, operations, and team building. But he also specializes in programming languages like Python, HTML, and CSS. How did he get such a curious mix of skills you might ask? Well, while studying economics in college, he and a friend launched LiquidBooks.net, a drop-off service to help fellow students sell their books at a higher value. They were pulling in $100,000 a year but after graduation he let the website lapse and went to work in the real world.

But finance wasn’t the right fit so he eventually made his way to Silicon Valley. Bennett is also one of four friends who launched Black Founders, a Silicon Valley-based organization with the mission to increase the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech. Black Founders was launched at the same time as the NewMe Accelerator, and since has also hosted education forums for hundreds of tech entrepreneurs in Atlanta and New York City.

While participating in the NewMe Accelerator, Bennett pitched his idea for Soldsie.com (formally Central.ly). It allows retailers to sell their products on Facebook by letting shoppers go into a product’s comment section and write “sold” to buy items. Bennett and his co-founder built an entire back-end system that allows merchants to manage sales and collect payments. Bennett wasn’t one of the main entrepreneurs featured in the documentary, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t walk away with a war chest of resources. Below he talks about the accelerator experience, advisor feedback, and why Silicon Valley is “the place for tech startups.”

I worked in finance because…

I got a solid job offer in private equity after college and I never had any experience with a tech company (besides LiquidBooks) so I didn’t apply to any tech companies in college.  I was really frustrated working in finance and it took me exploring a couple of industries before I realized I should work in tech. I decided to move to the Valley because one of my best friends from college left Bain Capital to work at a startup. That was the first time I realized the potential of startups and the opportunities they afforded. After two years, I’m still in the Valley.

The way I see it…

If you are going to be a technology entrepreneur then you should be in San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  It has the best and biggest network of talent, investors, and mentors here. I moved to the Valley before NewMe and had no intention to leave afterwards. We are based in the Mission District in San Francisco.

Following NewMe we raised…

An angel round to keep us going. We are using the investment to hire additional people and invest in marketing to attract new customers and inform the market about selling on Facebook.

‘Black in America’: Wayne Sutton, One Year Later

Wayne Sutton, a co-founder of the NewMe Accelerator, is now founder of PitchTo.co

Last November, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien explored Silicon Valley through the eyes of eight African-American entrepreneurs. All participants of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, the Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley cast invited viewers into their journey as startup founders competing in an industry comprised of less than 1% of entrepreneurs that look like them. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the tech innovators to see what they’ve been up to one year later.

There would not be a NewMe Accelerator without Wayne Sutton. When Angela Benton of BlackWeb2.0 contacted him in 2011 for advice about creating a one-day conference to encourage African Americans to launch tech conferences, together the team came up with the idea for a two-month accelerator instead. Since way before the age of Twitter, Sutton, who also blogs as and goes by the moniker SocialWayne, has been at the forefront of social media, blogging about all things tech related. Now, Sutton has many more notches on his belt and technophiles of all races turn to him for his expertise on any number of topics including location-based digital services, startup and pitch strategy, User Interface/User Interaction (UI/UX), mobile interface design, business development, and content strategy. Read ahead to learn more about why Sutton joined forces with Benton, whether the accelerator was a success in his eyes, and what’s next on his to-do list.

As co-founder of the NewMe Accelerator my vision was to…

Launch a successful program to work with the brightest minds in Silicon Valley. To help first-time and experienced minority entrepreneurs learn what it takes to build a technology startup.

I’ve learned a lot since launching and leaving NewME such as…

The importance of having great mentors and advisers, along with making sure every founder of the team understands their role before moving forward with the company. Overall, the experience of launching an accelerator in Silicon Valley was priceless.

I moved to San Francisco from North Carolina in February to keep the vision of the NewME Accelerator going. I worked with another class of founders from February to May of 2012, to help develop their product, connect with mentors and prepare them to pitch their products to VC firms and press.

What many people don’t know by just watching the CNN Black In America 4 documentary is…

That I was the co-founder of a mobile location-based startup in North Carolina that was founded in 2009. That’s the startup I was working on before my former NewME partner, Angela Benton, called me asking for advice about launching a startup. After NewME started, I decided to put our NC-based startup on hold, which allowed me to focus on maintaining the accelerator. Due to the CNN cameras, I still had to pitch at the end of the program so I came up with two app ideas from July to August one being Vouch and pitched it on demo day.

If I had to do it all over again…

I wouldn’t have pitched at all. I decided not to launch Vouch. Although I liked the idea, I wasn’t passionate about it. So decided to not move forward on the idea and focus on launching the NewME Community across the country and getting ready for the 2012 class.

In May, I decided to leave NewME to launch a new company call PitchTo.co. PitchTo is a mobile development lab which builds tools for investors to make smarter decisions and help entrepreneurs deliver exceptional pitches. The vision behind PitchTo came after seeing a disconnect between founders and investors around the pitch and feedback loop.

‘Black in America’: Curtiss Pope, One Year Later

Curtiss Pope’s AisleFinder app makes shopping easier. He fine tuned the business model when he participated in the NewMe Accelerator  (Image: Kent Hwang)

Last November, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien explored Silicon Valley through the eyes of eight African-American entrepreneurs. All participants of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, the Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley cast invited viewers into their journey as startup founders competing in an industry comprised of less than 1% of entrepreneurs that look like them. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the tech innovators to see what they’ve been up to one year later.

AisleFinder, also known as the GPS of the Supermarket, is the brain child of Curtiss Pope, a former programmer at Microsoft and Yahoo. AisleFinder is a location-based app that makes it easier to find the items on your shopping list by providing the exact aisle numbers. The app is available in more than 6,300 supermarkets in the U.S. and Canada, including well over 100  Walmart supercenter locations.  Over the last four years, Pope has been able to grow his user base from 40 to over 64,000, as of January 2012, and much of that growth is due to resources he attracted taking part in programs like the NewMe Accelerator. Although CNN only chose to cover a select number of NewMe participants, you can catch Pope’s story here as he reflects on the accelerator program and gives his take on Silicon Valley diversity.

For me, Silicon Valley is…

Home. I was born and raised here. I was one of the local startups selected to be in the accelerator.

Since NewMe ended…

AisleFinder is still my main project, but I have a few other ideas that I’ve been able to get off the ground. I’ve been building a Supermarket API , and GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) checker.