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Washington Dept. of Commerce helps launch ‘Equitable Improvements Accelerator’

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Discover Ventures co-founder Elizabeth Scallon (WeWork Labs Picture)

A brand new program goals to offer early-stage funding for Washington state tech startups based by entrepreneurs who’re Black, ladies, refugees or from different traditionally marginalized communities.

The brand new endeavor, the Equitable Improvements Accelerator, will assist ten tech startups with as much as $100,000 in philanthropically-funded grants, programming and entry to mentorship. The accelerator is a joint program from the Washington State Division of Commerce and Discover Ventures.

“Entry to first financing rounds is tough for a brand-new start-up founder, particularly if they’re Black, Latinx, Indigenous, individuals of colour, ladies, LGBTQIA+ or non-binary. Accessing start-up funding verges on unattainable for these with out connections to mentors, traders, expertise and assets,” mentioned Discover Ventures co-founder Elizabeth Scallon in a press launch. “Discover Ventures desires to alter that paradigm.”

Scallon, beforehand head of WeWork Labs for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest who’s now working at Amazon, based Discover Ventures final yr with Justin Brotman, son of Costco co-founder Jeffrey Brotman. The fund gives “non-dilutive” awards that don’t require startups to surrender fairness or possession. Founders are inspired to signal a non-binding pledge that they may in flip assist the fund once they attain sustainable income or Collection B financing.

The brand new awards might be distributed by means of the accelerator program and funded by non-public donors; that funding continues to be being secured. The Washington State Know-how Business Affiliation may also assist the accelerator’s programming.

Only one.2% of enterprise capital invested in U.S. startups by means of the primary half of 2021 went to Black startup entrepreneurs, in keeping with Crunchbase. And that’s a better proportion than for any earlier yr: in 2020 that quantity was a mere 0.6%.

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Startups with female-only founders raised simply 2.2% of VC funding by means of the primary eight months of 2021, a 5-year-low, Crunchbase additionally reported.

The commerce division will present funding for the event and operations of the initiative as a part of a “Secure Begin” grant from the U.S. Financial Improvement Administration. 

“Discover Ventures and the Washington State Division of Commerce share a imaginative and prescient and keenness to create a world the place all entrepreneurs have a chance to construct corporations and a assured shot at fixing our best challenges, particularly those that have struggled to entry conventional sources of capital,” mentioned commerce director Lisa Brown in an announcement.

Different commerce division initiatives with an emphasis on under-represented communities embody the Small Enterprise Flex Fund, backed by $30 million from the division and $40 million from a number of banks. The fund has offered low-interest loans of as much as $150,000 to greater than 110 small companies since its inception this summer time.

As well as, the division’s Small Enterprise Resiliency Community connects small companies with technical and enterprise help, and it’ll quickly launch the Washington Alternative Community to attach pandemic-affected companies to assist. Utility data occasions for the brand new accelerator program are on Dec. 6 and Jan 14.

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