When the Nielsen Foundation, a private foundation funded by Nielsen, began grantmaking in 2016, we knew that bridging divides by reducing discrimination and promoting inclusion would be one of our key grantmaking priorities. Diverse representation across industries, organizations, and communities is a key component to unlock equitable access to opportunities for everyone, and the Nielsen Foundation wanted to be a part of that effort. We also know that in order to make a bigger impact in our grant priority areas, we needed to make larger investments through signature programs—initiatives uniquely or primarily supported by the Nielsen Foundation in collaboration with a strategic non-profit partner—to grow the scale and reach of our grant dollars.
As we considered where and how to invest in a signature program, we heard from various stakeholders that the pipeline of diverse technology companies with the reach and scale to grow nationally was way too small. And when we dove deeper into the issue, we were surprised at how bleak the numbers can be. For example, in January, the World Economic Forum reported that only 13% of venture capital funding in the United States goes to start-up founding teams that have at least one woman; black women have raised only .0006% of all tech venture funding since 2006.
We wanted the Nielsen Foundation to support a signature program that could create resources that diverse start-ups need to grow their businesses, increase access to economic opportunities, and expand representation in the technology sector. We’ve been thrilled to work with Tampa Bay Wave to bring the vision for the TechDiversity Accelerator program to life because of their track record of expertise to build, launch, and grow startup organizations.
We invested a $100,000 signature grant for Year 1 of the Accelerator, and because we know diverse representation in the tech sector won’t change overnight, we grew our support in Year 2 to help Tampa Bay Wave expand recruitment efforts and the geographic reach of diverse entrepreneurs applying to the Accelerator. We hope that empowering, encouraging and accelerating diverse tech businesses through the TechDiversity Accelerator can help to grow the pipeline of diverse-owned companies around the United States.
Learning about the companies from Year 1 of the Accelerator was incredible. These startups, which are at least 51% owned or operated by a minority, woman, veteran, and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person, received coaching on access to capital, mentoring, and connections to bring their companies to the next level. I was lucky enough to attend both the kick-off of the first Accelerator cohort in May 2018, as well as the closing Demo Day in August 2018. The companies each demonstrated incredible growth over just that short period in sharing the depth of their ideas and how they sold and presented their companies to an audience. The success stories since the cohort, like GuestBox being selected as one of the 8 finalists for the Rise of the Rest $100K pitch competition and Little Global Citizens being featured in Forbes, provide additional proof that the Accelerator and these amazing diverse-owned companies can make a difference in our economy.
We can’t wait to meet the Year 2 cohort of companies in the TechDiversity Accelerator and see what new success stories will be created this year!
Written by: Andrea Bertels, Executive Director of Grantmaking, the Nielsen Foundation.