New Initiative Launched to Elevate Black-founded Startups in the Pacific Northwest
Diversity in startup founders is critical to the success of the tech ecosystem (and arguably the national economy), yet Black entrepreneurs face numerous racially-influenced challenges such as access to capital, lack of social capital, and the racial wealth gap. In 2022, venture capital invested in Black-founded businesses decreased by 45% and only represented 1.1% of venture funding in the U.S. Despite being the most likely to start business, only a staggering 4% of Black-owned ventures are still in operation after 3.5 years compared to the average of 55.5% for all businesses.
For a newly formed group in the Pacific Northwest, the solution to these systemic problems lies within the community. The Black Tech Founders group aims to amplify the landscape of opportunities for Black-founded tech startups on a grassroots level. Louis Newkirk, Jamar “Doc” Montgomery, and Evan Poncelet of the Washington State Black Angel Network organized a kickoff meeting in January, sponsored by WTIA and hosted by Ron Wiener at Venture Mechanics Coworking Studios in Bellevue. The impetus for the gathering was “to get the right people in the right place at the right time to ensure success” and to facilitate networking, visibility, funding and alignment for Black founders in the greater Seattle area—and eventually beyond.
Newkirk has a big vision for this movement, which is being built on four major pillars: community, education, mentorship, and opportunity. He aspires to help get Black founders into a position where they can achieve venture-scale companies by giving these entrepreneurs actionable tools and resources, mentor-matching, and better access to angel and venture capital funding.
Educational content is already being programmed for the planned monthly meetings with presentations by subject matter experts, topical panel discussions, and prominent guest speakers. These meetings will provide ample opportunity for networking with potential investors and fellow founders, as well as mentors. The group also has plans for two “Launchpad Expo” venture pitch competitions in 2024, slated for June 5th and Nov 11th. While Venture Mechanics hosts over 20 Launchpad Expos each year along industry verticals, these two events will be specifically dedicated to Black tech founders and across all industry sectors.
Black Tech Founders meetings will be held the 4th Wednesday of every month at the Venture Mechanics Coworking Studio and Startup Incubator in Bellevue. The group warmly welcomes Black founders building scalable tech startups, as well as investors, mentors, and allies to the monthly meetings. A website and socials are coming soon! To find out more about how you can get involved or explore sponsorship opportunities, sign up for announcements here.
Diversity in business has been shown to be instrumental in attaining success, if and when an organization is willing to move beyond platitudes and restructure its power hierarchy in a meaningful way. But the Black Tech Founders aren’t waiting for the system to change–they’re reengineering the ecosystem from the inside out.