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Starting a business can be a very arduous endeavor. You spend extensive time planning and preparing to create a strong minimum value product (MVP) that will be well received. You also spend a tremendous amount of bandwidth staying up to date on the industry, seeking wise counsel and raising money to enhance your business. That is why the thought of applying to an accelerator is so attractive to many business owners

What is an accelerator?

Harvard Business Review describes accelerators as organizations that “support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing. Startups enter accelerators for a fixed-period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies. The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.” 

With acceptance into an accelerator being traditionally very difficult, (Forbes stated that only 1% to 3% of startups typically get accepted), the importance of Black accelerators cannot be overstated. Currently, they make up a fraction of the total accelerators that exist. Additionally, there's many Black accelerators that are demographically focused on women and communities of color, providing access and resources to people that have been historically underserved.

The Institute for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and JP Morgan, in a jointly created report titled, "Creating Inclusive High-Tech Incubators and Accelerators: Strategies to Increase Participation Rates of Women and Minority Entrepreneurs," noted that "there has been an increase in demographic incuba­tors and accelerators, in part because of the lack of participa­tion of women and minority entrepreneurs in incubators and accelerators.” Furthermore, “according to InBIA, the majority of incubators (69%) do not focus on any particular demographic group, but 9% of incubators are focused on women entrepreneurs, 9% on Hispanic entrepreneurs, 8% on African American.” They go on to share in detail that recruitment, selection biases, program design and culture are factors that prevent more women and minority entrepreneurs from participating in this valuable program.

Read Jenna Chambers piece on AfroTech, "7 Accelerators and Incubators You Should Know About," where she revealed "Black women-led startups only accounts for .0006 percent of the $424.7 billion raised in venture funding.”

Benjamin Vann and Impact Ventures Accelerator

For the last several years, a man by the name of Benjamin Vann has been putting in the work to make the startup and tech community in Dallas-Fort Worth a more inclusive place. Through his organization, Impact Ventures, formerly Impact House, he has taken a “qualitative and quantitative approach to creating diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem” in North Texas. His focus on the tech pipeline, closing the income and wealth for women and minorities that are historically underserved through “tech workforce development, inclusive entrepreneurship and venture capital” make sure that these individuals are seen. He told the Dallas Examiner that “2% of individuals from African American and Latin communities are represented in technology right now,” and with the DFW being the sixth largest tech workforce base in the country, only having 2% represented is a “huge gap.” Vann has been pulling together an arsenal of heavy hitters in venture capital, private investor and tech foundation communities to provide seed money to women and people of color led ventures through the accelerator he is launching. Impact Ventures Accelerator is a 12-week immersive program is designed to train and develop underrepresented women, minority or social impact focused startups. Read the official press release for more information.

“We saw a glaring market opportunity in Dallas and wanted to do something about it, but we knew in order to address this gap we first had to both understand and measure it. Our first few years started with understanding the market through community building, stakeholder development and data collection. We’ve done the groundwork, but now we’re ready to put some measurable impact behind our work.”

– Benjamin Vann, Founder & CEO – Impact Ventures

The 12-week program operates from March 2–29, 2020, and the application period is September 2–November 22, 2019. For more information on the accelerator, click here.