Above: Black People Eats Founder Jeremy Joyce explains how he’s building support for Black-owned restaurants.
Welcome to The Hub, your spot for ecosystem and accelerator news. In this news roundup, we provide you with the latest on organizations working to support, educate and fund innovators and their ideas. As always, we’re focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs — such as women, people of color, and those geographically outside power centers — and organizations supporting these demographics.
If you have a piece of news or a job listing you think will fit into this roundup, email it to Skyler Rossi at [email protected].
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A New Federal Holiday, But A Long Way To Go
Americans everywhere, from the federal government to the corporate world, were caught off-guard by President Joe Biden’s announcement that Juneteenth would become a federal holiday. Some scrambled to figure out whether they will offer the day as paid time off.
Meanwhile, a handful were ahead of the game and already celebrating by emphasizing support for Black-owned businesses.
Black People Eats, a Chicago-based group with more than 100,000 followers, organized a campaign to offer Juneteenth deals, and just announced a national festival to celebrate Juneteenth next year. This year, each participating restaurant created items that sold for $6.19 or $16.19 Saturday, according to an Instagram Post. More than 110 restaurants in Chicago and Atlanta participated over the weekend.
It started the campaign last year, to aid Black-owned restaurants in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Last year, the campaign generated more than $500,000 for the restaurants and the goal this year was $1 million, founder Jeremy Joyce told Eater Chicago.
New Bedford, Massachusetts-based BuyBlackNB hosted a pop-up market for Black-owned businesses on Juneteenth, writes SouthCoast Today. In New York City, business platform Experience Harlem, nonprofit advocacy group the Harlem Business Alliance and Maker’s Mark organized an event to support Black-owned bars and businesses in the neighborhood.
Whether the new holiday or the talk of change leads to meaningful systemic improvements remains to be seen. In fact, tech companies that made pledges often had fewer Black employees than ones that didn’t, according to a May study from Blendoor, a group that rates companies on their diversity, equality and inclusion.
Black women in particular have long been a driving force of the economy. Women of color are currently the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.Yet, without access to capital, their companies tend to stay small — and one survey last year showed their confidence was flagging.
Some programs have been meaningful. Black leaders in Louisville have recently created beneficial programs for Black entrepreneurs in the city. Read more: As A $3 Billion Boom Hits Louisville, New Generations Of Black Leaders Are Rising To Power
Under Fire, Amazon Announces Aid For Black-Owned Businesses
Amazon has announced it plans to commit $150 million over four years to Black entrepreneurs, in a program called Black Business Accelerator. Much of that is in free services — It offers accepted entrepreneurs a $500 credit for new Amazon sellers, up to $400 in advertising credits within one year of enrollment, free imaging services for up to 50 products. It’s also offering $10,000 grants through a partnership with Houston-based entrepreneurship resource Hello Alice. But an Amazon spokeswoman would not reveal the number of grants, saying that the number had not been set yet.
Amazon also partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency and U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. for the program. These are groups it’s partnered with for years to run other accelerator programs for minority entrepreneurs in the past, the spokeswoman said. The Black Business Accelerator is launching after months of piloting the program with hundreds of existing Black Amazon sellers, the spokeswoman said.
Amazon’s net income in 2020 was $21 billion, which comes out to $57.5 million a day. Ottawa, Canada-based Shopify, which had a net income of $319.5 million last year, launched a similar program to support entrepreneurs of color in October with Operation HOPE, committing up to about $130 million in resources.
The accelerator was announced the same day as a Recode investigation reported racial discrimmination and bias within Amazon and its HR department. Last week, The New York Times also reported that Black employees are 50% more likely to be fired from the company.
Founders interested in the program can apply on its website. Applications for the grants will open July .
Female-founded Global Fund Launches in Australia
New York-based The Fund, which invests in early-stage startups, is expanding to Australia, TechCrunch reports. It currently has locations in Los Angeles, London, the Rockies and the Midwest, according to the article. The Fund was co-founded in 2018 by Jenny Fielding, who is also a managing director at Techstars New York. Its Australia team also has Techstars ties — Todd Deacon, one of its leaders, is a managing director at Techstars too. The rest of the Australia team includes Elicia McDonalid, a principal at venture firm AirTree; AfterWorks Ventures co-founder Adrian Petersen; and Georgia Vidler, the former Canva head of product. The Fund has a network of about 400 founders and has made about 120 investments.
Names to Know
Duality, a new accelerator at the University of Chicago focused on quantum accelerators has made some of its first hires, according to an announcement. The accelerator launched in April and is a partnership between the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Chicago Quantum Exchange, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Argonne National Laboratory and P33.
Chuck Vallurupalli is its new senior director. He is a serial entrepreneur — he’s founded data science company Inferology and online marketplace Kivivi, according to his LinkedIn profile — and has worked with over 200 startups during his career. Most recently, he’s been an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Polsky Center, mentoring startups in many of its challenges, and also has mentored startups at Chicago entrepreneurship center 1871 and Chicago healthcare incubator MATTER, according to the announcement. The position also puts Vallurupalli on the Polsky Center’s executive leadership team, the announcement outlines.
The accelerator has also hired Preeti Chalsani as its deputy director, according to the announcement. Currently, she’s the director of industry partnerships for quantum information science, a role that’s joint with the Polsky Center and CQE. Prior to her current role, she worked with faculty at the university to support commercialization of their physical sciences and engineering research. Prior to that, she worked as a nanotechnology consultant and researcher at the National Research Council in Canada. She’s been involved with the accelerator since it’s conception, according to the announcement.
Successful Milwaukee Accelerator Expands to Green Bay
Milwaukee-based Young Enterprising Society is expanding its accelerator, The Blueprint, 117 miles north to Green Bay, Wisconsin, WisconsinInno reports. The accelerator, which launched in 2018, provides 12-week programs for technology, e-commerce and advanced manufacturing startups and provides up to $25,000 in grants to participants. It focuses on founders who are women, people of color or veterans, according to the article. The new program is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp and will be run by YES, economic development agency New North and the Greater Green Bay Chamber. Applications for the Green Bay program July 11.
Water and Energy Accelerator at Fresno State
Fresno State’s Water, Energy and Technology Valley Ventures accelerator program accepting applications, The Business Journal reports. It’s seeking up to 10 startups working on water, clean energy and agriculture solutions. Following the two-month accelerator program, a select number of startups will move into a 12-month program to continue receiving mentorship. Startups must be based in California or plan to move to California to apply. Applications are due July 18.
Competition to Address UN Sustainable Development Goals
London-based ClimateScience Olympiads is seeking teams of two between the ages of 14 and 25 to find solutions for the United Nations sustainable development goals, according to its website. In the first round, teams will choose one of three problem statements to respond to. The topics are revealed 10 days before the event, but the exact problem won’t be shared until the start of the qualifier round. Participants will have three hours to research and write essay responses. Semi Finalists participate in a program to help prepare for the next two rounds. The top three finalists will split $10,000 in the final round, which will be at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Applications are due Aug. 1.
$100k Competition For Latin American and Caribbean Startups
MIT Sloan Latin America Office and the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology are launching this year’s 100k LATAM competition, a contest for ventures in Latin America and the Caribbean with more than $100,000 in prizes, according to an MIT newsletter. The contest is seeking to fund economic, social or environmental developments and has three categories for different stages: those at the pitch stage, the accelerator stage or the launch stage, according to the newsletter. The competition will be justified by a panel of industry specialists, academics and entrepreneurs. Applications are open.