The HBCU Founders Initiative, a nonprofit organization that supports students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) along their entrepreneurial journey, and United Negro College Fund (UNCF) TechVentures, an entrepreneurial training program for students participating in UNCF science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, have announced a partnership to establish the HBCU Pre-Accelerator program.
The inaugural cohort of the HBCU Pre-Accelerator Program will include the following HBCUs: Bowie State, Elizabeth City State, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T, Oakwood, Prairie View A&M, and Spelman College. To date, over 500 students and alumni from 60+ HBCUs have benefitted from the HBCU Founders Initiative’s programming with participants raising over $2 million for their startups.
Each of the campuses will host two, eight-week pre-accelerators (one in the fall and one in the spring) in support of approximately five startups per cohort; all of which are comprised of early-stage founders who are past the ideation stage and ready to validate a problem and build an MVP.
Each pre-accelerator program will include topics such as validating the idea, building a prototype, customer discovery, marketing and branding, legal operations, and fundraising and will be presented in weekly virtual cohort sessions with on-campus activities also planned. Participants will have access to office hours with advisors who will help them along their entrepreneurial journey.
The program will culminate in a pitch competition where participants will be eligible to receive non-dilutive program awards in support of MVP development.
“In line with our commitment to provide entrepreneurial education to our students, Bowie State is excited to be chosen to participate in HBCUFI’s Pre-Accelerator Program. Through this program our students will have the opportunity to continue to grow as innovators, develop their business leader mindset, and have access to resources needed to build sustainable businesses,” said Johnetta Boseman Hardy, Executive Director of The Entrepreneurship Innovation Center (EIC) at Bowie State University.
The initiative will scale entrepreneurial education and training across HBCU campuses and provide dedicated support to on-campus pre-accelerator programs that support entrepreneurship and the launch of student-led ventures.
“As an institution dedicated to innovation and collaboration, Oakwood University is honored to be selected as one of the seven campuses that will partner with HBCUFI for its Pre-Accelerator Program. We believe that entrepreneurship is a key component of a well-rounded education and a core value at Oakwood University. We are excited to expand our entrepreneurial offerings through our partnership with HBCUFI,” commented Dr. Theodore Brown Sr., Dean of the School of Business at Oakwood University.
Additionally, UNCF launched TechVentures in 2020 with support from the Citi Foundation and Blackstone Charitable Foundation. TechVentures immediately provided entrepreneurial education and training support to two cohorts of students through 2021 before establishing the partnership with HBCUFI, which has enabled UNCF to scale and expand the program offerings across HBCU campuses.
“At UNCF, a core part of our mission is to support our institutions in their efforts to build capacity and help them to achieve their goals of becoming hubs and nodes of innovation and entrepreneurship that will have local and regional economic impact. We are excited about our partnership with HBCUFI and the HBCU Pre-Accelerator Program as it represents a unique opportunity to scale entrepreneurial education and training across HBCU campuses and to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset among our students. Further, this partnership expands our ability to cultivate the extraordinary talent that exists on our campuses,” said Dr. Chad Womack, Vice President of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.
“Adding an in-person component to our work is essential in ensuring the long-term sustainability of our efforts,” said HBCUFI President, Marlon Evans. “By building local capacity, we will be helping to foster a culture of innovation on campus and in the surrounding community. Ultimately, we hope to establish dedicated acceleration programming at dozens of HBCUs launching hundreds of African American-led startups that attract millions of dollars of investment capital, and in so doing, creating thousands of jobs on an annual basis,” adds Evans. “As SMBs are the lifeblood of our economy, creating two-thirds of net new jobs and 44% of all US economic activity, we believe our virtual and in-person startup acceleration programming will impact financial inclusion and empowerment.”
Support from organizations committed to diversity and inclusion has been core to HBCUFI’s success. HBCUFI Founding Partner, Franklin Templeton, is among these, having recently announced its plans to continue to support HBCUFI in 2022. For the 2022-2023 academic year, Franklin Templeton will provide support to the pre-accelerators at Morgan State and North Carolina A&T University, offering hands-on guidance to the founders through its employees who will serve as mentors, advisors, and pitch competition judges. Other organizations supporting HBCUFI for its second year include Intel, AARP, Cooley, Perkins Coie, and Concrete Rose.
“As a founding partner, Franklin Templeton has worked hand in hand with HBCUFI to inform the fintech program offerings and provide support to new entrepreneurs. This program is a great opportunity for students at HBCUs to expand their knowledge of the startup landscape and develop key skills they will need in their entrepreneurial journeys and broader careers,” Regina Curry, Chief Diversity Officer at Franklin Templeton.
HBCUFI is now accepting applications for the fall pre-accelerator. HBCU students from the seven participating schools are encouraged to apply (alumni applications will be reviewed, but preference will be given to current students). HBCU students and alumni not affiliated with one of the participating schools are also encouraged to apply and participate in the virtual fall pre-accelerator.