Venture Capitalists on the Lookout for Minority High-Tech Start-Up Stars
Who’s going to create the next social media juggernaut like Facebook or Twitter? Will it be a person of color this time? There are some African American technology stars out there just waiting to be discovered or trying to find the funding to get their idea off the ground. And there are venture capitalists on the lookout to jump-start them.
Access to capital is arguably the start-ups’ biggest barrier to coming to fruition. This is where the Venture Capital Access Program or VCAP© comes into the picture. VCAP© is a specialized collaborative between the Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of Greater New York (HBSAANY) and The National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC). The HBSAANY invests nearly $2 million dollars into 7 to 10 viable start-up companies every year.
It was seed money that helped entrepreneurs turn Facebook into a multibillion company and the world’s largest social media platform that has created thousands of jobs. Venture caps are looking for the next game changer.
“We’re representing a diverse group of entrepreneurs with the potential to develop something equally transformative over time if given the resources,” says Ed Dandridge, president and CEO of The NAIC.
VCAP© is looking for entrepreneurs in traditional and digital business platforms. Dandridge says companies in high growth businesses such as technology, life sciences, and consumer packaged goods are ideal candidates. “We’ve seen applications that are e-commerce-based, such as hair, skin and makeup products for women of color.”
Approximately 75 to 100 companies are completing applications and paying the $500 application fee, applicable to non-members of The Marathon Foundation. VCAP© will select 6 to 8 applicants as finalists.
“There will be entrepreneurs where this will be their first exposure to the (venture capital) process,” Dandridge says. The finalists will be announced on June 18th and will present their business plans to the HBSAANY on Pitch Night, which will be held on June 27th. Dandridge also says VCAP© will also provide mentoring and counseling, making them unique from the traditional venture capitalists.
And that’s exactly what applicants and start-ups want. Johnson is a former manager at Microsoft, and is one of the applicants to VCAP©. He currently serves as the CEO of a cyber security firm based in the Washington, DC area.
“I would appreciate the funding and will value the network with the Harvard Alumni Angel program. I expect to one or two advisors for my business from the VCAP process,” Johnson says.
Johnson advises that just because the program is geared towards women and minorities, that doesn’t mean that the products and services many of these companies will offer aren’t for mainstream. “These are not trivial businesses we want to start. They will be socioeconomically and economically transformational.”
The VCAP© program finalists will also present their plans at the Marathon’s 7th Annual Dealmakers Summit on July 23rd and 24th in Chicago.
— terry shropshire