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NJEDA & digitalundivided Showcase Resources for Black & Latino Entrepreneurs

Members of New Jersey’s innovation community had the opportunity to learn about public and private resources available to entrepreneurs of color during a recent “Removing Barriers for Diverse Entrepreneurs” Instagram Live discussion featuring New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Sullivan and digitalundivided CEO Lauren Maillian.

The chat also spotlighted the recently-proposed Black and Latino Seed Fund, which the NJEDA intends to create to drive capital to Black- and Latino-owned enterprises.

The innovation economy is facing a nationwide diversity crisis. According to Crunchbase, American companies raised a record-setting $150 billion in venture capital funding in 2020, but less than one percent of this went to Black-owned companies. The numbers are even worse for women. According to digitalundivided’s ProjectDiane, Black and Latina women received just 0.64 percent of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019.

During the event, Sullivan and Maillian spoke about ways their organizations are working to increase access to capital for minority-owned businesses and discussed initiatives created to empower Black and Latino founders, foster equitable entrepreneurship, and create the most diverse innovation ecosystem in the country.

“Reclaiming New Jersey’s position as the nation’s leader in innovation hinges on welcoming all entrepreneurs with original ideas to pursue their dreams,” Sullivan said. “Under Governor Murphy’s leadership, we’re working with our partners in the public and private sectors to close funding gaps that exist for far too many entrepreneurs of color and ensure that founders have the resources they need to succeed.”

Sullivan gave an overview of New Jersey’s proposed Black and Latino Seed Fund, which will focus on driving capital to Black- and Latino-owned enterprises. Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed a $10 million Fiscal Year 2022 budget allocation to create the Fund. Crafted with input from Black and Latino founders, investors, and policy experts, this seed fund is an important step toward tearing down the institutional barriers that hold Black and Latino entrepreneurs back and replacing them with accessible resources that respond to these innovators’ unique needs.

The concept for the Fund resulted from a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the NJEDA last year to solicit input on ways to increase access to capital for Black- and Latino-led startups. The RFI sought input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including fund managers, angel investors, venture capitalists, small-business owners, researchers and practitioners involved in entrepreneurship work, industry and trade groups, and other states’ governments.

Sullivan also outlined a comprehensive suite of initiatives advanced by Governor Murphy to foster equitable entrepreneurship and create the most diverse innovation ecosystem in the country. This includes adding new bonuses to:

  • The Angel Investor Tax Credit Program, to encourage investment in women- and minority-led businesses,
  • The NJ Ignite program, to support startups led by women and entrepreneurs of color that are considering moving to a New Jersey collaborative workspace,
  • The Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program, for productions with an approved diversity plan.

It also includes adding a diversity bonus to the NJEDA’s own venture investment plan, and an increased investment cap for investments in certified woman- or minority-owned businesses under the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund, created under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020.

During the Instagram Live chat, Maillian highlighted digitalundivided’s mission and resources it offers Black and Latina women entrepreneurs. digitalundivided is a non-profit, social startup that leverages data and advocacy to catalyze economic growth for Black and Latina entrepreneurs in innovation and technology. Maillian spoke about the groundbreaking programs they offer including  START 2021,  a three-week virtual program for Black and Latina women founders at the idea stage of their entrepreneurial journey. She also talked about BIG Pre-Accelerator, a fast-paced pre-accelerator program for high-potential, pre-revenue Black and Latina women-led startups, as well as the Do You Fellowship, which positions high-potential, innovative Black & Latina founders for growth by providing them with funding, professional development, and access to exclusive mentorship and resources.

“Responsibility falls on all players in the innovation ecosystem to break down the barriers that far too often impede the path to success for entrepreneurs of color,” Maillian said. “It’s important to keep having conversations like we had last night and to continue connecting diverse entrepreneurs with critical resources like the programming spearheaded by NJEDA and digitalundivided. Working together, we will encourage innovation in NJ and have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy.”

A recording of the Instagram Live chat can be found at https://www.instagram.com/p/CNYd6tUobXu/.

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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