The pandemic and racial justice movement are catalyzing a conversation about equity in this country and forcing industries such as technology to confront the lack of diversity.
It’s a challenge that the entrepreneur coalition Create33 and Microsoft aim to tackle with a new startup accelerator for founders of color.
For the past month, the Startup Success Program has been providing resources and support to the 27 startups in its inaugural six-month cohort.
“Over the past months, we have experienced the pandemic known as COVID19, but this country has been in the grips of a pandemic for centuries: racism and anti-blackness,” said Create33 Executive Director Rebecca Lovell. “These crises have highlighted and exacerbated the existing institutional barriers around access to resources for communities of color. Though it is an incredibly raw moment to launch this effort, with an inspiring cohort of startups and experts engaged in the work, we are thankful to do so.”
Golden Sherpa CEO Margie Bensching said that the program has already had a meaningful impact on her Spokane, Wash.,-based startup.
“While the Spokane startup community has been very supportive, diversity is limited,” she said. “I have only one female founder in my Spokane network with a scalable business that has raised a seed round while building a company. I am sure there are more in the area, but they are not in my network. In less than 30 days, the Startup Success Program has provided me with a new and diverse startup network.”
Golden Sherpa is an online marketplace that allows senior living facilities to bypass referral costs. It’s early days for the 2-person startup, which has raised $95,000 to date.
Bensching is one of 27 founders receiving one-on-one coaching, peer support, and interactive workshops through the Startup Success Program. After six months, they will participate in a demo day for investors, lenders, and community capital and credit unions.
“The biggest impact the Startup Success Program has had on our business thus far is helping us focus on clearly articulating our value proposition to our clients,” said Osyte CEO Charles Anselm. “Create33’s Startup Success Program is a structured yet inclusive program where I get to meet, learn and collaborate with entrepreneurs who happen to be people of color.”
Osyte is a Seattle-based startup building an investment management platform that Anselm says can help organizations make decisions that once took “6-to-10 business days every month” in just a few hours. The bootstrapped startup has five employees.
Two-thirds of the cohort’s startups are B2B and one-third are B2C, representing fintech, DevOps, edtech, wellness, e-commerce, and other fields. The program was over a year in the making, according to Create33 and Microsoft for Startups.
Create33 launched in 2018 as a “founder center” to bring Seattle-area entrepreneurs together. It’s the brainchild of Madrona Venture Group, one of the largest venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest. Today, the organization has 250 “high-growth startups” as members.
Here’s a sampling of companies from the Startup Success Program cohort:
- Advocat Technologies
- Aloe Money
- Bio Fiber Industries
- DownUnder Cloud Technologies Inc
- Entarupt Inc.
- every POINT ONE
- GIGLYNKS TECHNOLOGIES INC
- Golden Sherpa
- Inyore, Inc
- Lana Learn
- Pop Smart Kids
- When I Leave