With the support of Google for Startups, entrepreneurship nonprofit 2Gether-International is launching a brand new cohort for founders with disabilities starting this fall.
The 10-week accelerator program for entrepreneurs begins in October, with 12-15 spots open. Participants will take part in training on startup best practices, including customer development, interviews and product marketing, one-on-one leadership coaching and access to mentors from Google for Startups. Each startup will also be competing for seed funding. Applicants must be from a company led by a disabled founder, working in the technology space, be in the Series A or pre-revenue stage of funding and have a well-defined pitch or working prototype.
According to 2Gether CEO Diego Mariscal, the ability to offer founders the support of one-on-one mentorship and the community of fellow startup leaders will be crucial in creating community and finding startup success in the cohort.
“It’s all learning about their own development and in fact, we have found that that is the number one thing that people find the most useful and helpful,” Mariscal told Technical.ly. “Because you’re talking about challenging stigmas about disability. So it’s a really powerful component of it.”
This isn’t the nonprofit’s first rodeo supporing entrepreneurs, although it is the first time it has gathered a tech-specific cohort. Previously, 2Gether has held pitch competitions and hosted cohorts, including a women-only accelerator, with the support of a $75,000 grant from the deputy mayor’s office. It also managed to maintain its programming during the pandemic.
Since its founding in 2012, Mariscal said that the nonprofit has learned a lot about providing support for entrepreneurs. On top of expanding its network of investors and connections, Mariscal said he’s learned about the importance of things like providing health insurance and benefits or, for those receiving government services, making sure those are not jeopardized when establishing a new business.
For the most part, though, he added that his experience has helped lead to partnerships with companies like Google.
“My biggest lesson here is really around that work. There’s nothing like doing the work, right?” Mariscal said. “And when you do the work and because we’ve been doing it for a number of years, people start to see that and they start to recognize that.”
Mariscal told Technical.ly that all types of technology startups are eligible to apply, although he has a particular interest in artificial intelligence as a particularly exciting space. But he encouraged applicants from all tech sectors, and said the real industry experts will be the representatives and mentors from Google who can help founders break into the space.
“Google is able to bring its deep expertise specifically around the technology space,” Mariscal said.
In a statement, Google for Startups’ Lisa Gevelber said that she’s proud of Google’s efforts to build a more diverse, accessible startup community, even if there’s still more work to be done.
“Founders with disabilities have unique insights and value to contribute to the tech sector,” Gevelber said. “I hope this accelerator program leads to more inclusive solutions, expanded support and programming for disabled founders around the world.”