This article appears as part of the Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative and is underwritten by the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce. It was independently reported and not reviewed by this partner before publication.
This is the philosophy Sarah Bondzie, associate investment and loan officer at The Enterprise Center (TEC), has been repeating to herself as the West Philadelphia hub works toward investing more in women- and minority-owned tech businesses in the region.
“This is an under-invested space,” she said of these businesses. “We’re just here to play a part and move the needle in that sector.”
The Enterprise Center, the 30-year-old organization that provides business growth and economic support resources to minority entrepreneurs, recently announced applications for a pitch competition for minority-owned businesses this fall as part of the City of Philadelphia’s Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative.
The Enterprise Center received a $125,000 grant from the City through the initiative, and its Community Development Financial Institution matched that grant to double the total amount of prize money for the competition, Bondzie said. This means The Enterprise Center is able to award the first-place winner with $80,000, second place will get $60,00, place will get $40,000 and fourth place will receive 20,000.
Applications for the pitch competition are currently open through June 26. Ten finalists will be chosen for the pitch competition. Those selected will also have access to a 10-week virtual accelerator including workshops, mentoring and business exposure. The competition event is planned for Oct. 3.
To be accepted, businesses must be located in Philadelphia, be 51% or more minority owned, and focus on technology in some way. Bondzie said her team is also looking for businesses that address a social issue and have a lot of potential for growth.
“The competition’s focus on the technology minority businesses reflects The Enterprise Center’s deep commitment to increasing access to funding and diversifying representation.”Sarah Bondzie The Enterprise Center
“The competition’s focus on the technology minority businesses reflects The Enterprise Center’s deep commitment to increasing access to funding and diversifying representation and promoting innovative thinking within the space and within the city in itself,” Bondzie said.
This tech-focused competition is the first of its kind for the org, according to Bondzie. So is its Innovate Capital Growth Fund, which launched in 2022 with a goal to raise $50 million to invest in growth-stage women- and minority-owned businesses, including those working in tech and tech-adjacent industries.
“We’re building out our pipeline. And for us to build that out, we need to have initiatives, events centered around technology that would draw in more people to really understand that not only do we provide depth, but we are an investment hub as well, and we’re trying to center that focus around technology in itself,” she said. “So the pitch competition really was a great idea for the initiation of, truly, where we plan to go.”
The Enterprise Center also recently launched the TEC Seed Fund, a new investment fund specifically for early-stage minority and women entrepreneurs in the mid-Atlantic. The investments will be between $20,000 and $250,000 in the form of convertible notes or SAFE notes with non-controlling interest.
Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis. The Enterprise Center is looking for businesses in the pre-seed or seed stages that have been operating for at least a year, and have a lot of growth potential.
“TEC has been promoting racial and economic justice for over 30 years and we realized in order for us to move forward and actually grow in the space of access to capital, part of that has to include the investment in minority founders in technology,” she said.Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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