Entrepreneurship often has high barriers to entry, especially if it’s your first venture or you don’t have an existing support network. However, you don’t have to go it alone.
Every tech ecosystem has organizations dedicated to strengthening the business community, and many have programs and initiatives specifically targeted at first-time entrepreneurs and those from underrepresented backgrounds. These can take the form of direct funding, office or lab space, mentorship and networking opportunities, and other resources to help new companies get off the ground.
If you have an idea but don’t know where to start, these orgs can be an invaluable source of information, support and connections.
For the month of January, Technical.ly’s reporting has explored the theme of Pathways to Tech Careers for our editorial calendar. For some additional perspectives, we asked our Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder companies the following question:
How is your org supporting first-time founders and entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds?
Here are some replies from their teams, and if you like what you see, follow the links to companies’ Directory Pages to learn more and explore ways to connect.
Delaware Prosperity Partnership (choosedelaware.com) leads Delaware’s efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and support employers in place-marketing Delaware to potential employees.
“New businesses formed by entrepreneurs drive job creation as they hire employees to support their growth and also broaden the local innovation environment and business community. Diverse entrepreneurs and the ecosystem that supports them are increasingly vital to the health of our state and regional economies. As an economic development organization, supporting the growth, maturation and diversification of Delaware’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem is one of Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s fundamental goals.
“To that end, DPP and its partners are hosting our fourth Startup302 Pitch Competition, which will once again provide access to key funding and facilitators for tech-enabled startups with founders from groups (women; people of color, including Black, Latinx and Native American; and members of the LGBTQ+ community) whose ventures are underinvested in relative to their demographic’s percentage of overall U.S. population. Over the last three years, the competition has awarded more than $640,000 to 37 early-stage companies with underrepresented founders — helping these startups achieve their potential while serving specific business niches and furthering innovation, diversity and prosperity in Delaware.” — Erica Crell, manager of innovation
The Tech Council of Delaware is a nonprofit workforce intermediary that connects and convenes members across the tech ecosystem to advance the Council’s three primary goals:
- Build and expand an inclusive tech talent pipeline in Delaware
- Create a strong tech ecosystem in Delaware
- Strengthen Delaware’s position and perception as a tech hub
“In November 2023, the Tech Council of Delaware (TCD) and the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce (DEBCC) held a focus group for Delaware-based tech startups and tech-enabled small businesses led by underrepresented founders and owners. This interactive, facilitated session was designed to obtain the unique perspectives, experiences and needs of Black and Hispanic business owners who are operating in the tech sector and/or are strategically using technology for business operations. This engaging discussion focused on funding and revenue generation, business development and capacity building.
“Given the strong engagement during the session and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, TCD and DEBCC are partnering to launch a new tech ecosystem committee which will meet regularly to address the specific needs and challenges faced by Black-owned tech leaders and entrepreneurs. A similar committee is also being developed to address the needs of Hispanic tech founders and business owners. In addition to addressing challenges and making time to network, both committees will play a role in planning a Diverse Tech Day in June 2024, which will highlight Black and Hispanic-owned tech companies as part of the Tech Council of Delaware’s second annual tech ecosystem conference.” — Joshua Berkow, director of operations
TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, enhances economic empowerment growth through the fostering of an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. We identify, invest in, and help grow technology and life science-based companies in Maryland.
“TEDCO aims to support entrepreneurial innovation and cultivate growth in Maryland.
“With this idea in mind, we have created several funds and programs dedicated to uplifting underrepresented founders and entrepreneurs including the Institute for Women Entrepreneur Excellence, a program designed to support and empower women entrepreneurs; our Social Impact Funds, housing two funds designed to assist underrepresented founders and communities; the Rural Business Innovation Initiative and Urban Business Innovation Initiative, two programs focused on supporting entrepreneurs in Maryland’s rural and urban areas where resources may not be as readily available; and the recently launched Cultivate Maryland Initiative, designed to increase Maryland’s competitiveness by creating an inclusive and diverse technology startup community.” — Troy LeMaile-Stovall, CEO
The Science Center is Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation and economic growth. Established in 1963, the nonprofit has been recognized by The Brookings Institution as a best-in-class investor, mentor and economic development partner for young technology companies.
“The Science Center offers multiple pathways for first-time founders and entrepreneurs from under-represented backgrounds.
“Life sciences entrepreneurship is inaccessible for many due to the high cost of lab space and equipment, the challenge of scaling back or leaving full-time employment to build a business, and a lack of access to funding. Our Founders Fellowship is designed for academic researchers who may not be able to pursue entrepreneurship under other circumstances. We reduce the financial and logistical barriers to success by providing a $50,000 stipend, access to state-of-the-art lab space at CIC, and connections to seasoned entrepreneurs and advisors.
“Our free, weekly Venture Café Thursday Gatherings give new entrepreneurs an entry-point into the startup ecosystem with opportunities to make connections and gain valuable insights through innovation-focused content
“And our FirstHand STEM education program nurtures entrepreneurial skillsets in Philadelphia middle and high school students through hands-on, industry-informed curricula and career exposure.” — Kristen Fitch, senior director of marketing
Curious about startup resources in your local tech community? Check out all the Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder companies here, and find out about their missions, cultures and initiatives.
P.S. If you’re curious about Technical.ly’s services for your own org, find more info here and connect with us.
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