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Diversity and inclusion are huge topics in today’s business marketplace, and for good reason. In the world of tech and venture capitalism, specifically, there remains a large gap between the number of women and minorities actively launching new companies and attracting support from funders. This year, IBM’s Hyper Protect Accelerator program aims to lessen the gap by focusing on companies with diverse teams. The program is an investment-readiness program for startups that provides technical and business mentorship to them with an aim of collaborating further across the IBM network, including IBM’s PartnerWorld opportunities.
The Hyper Protect Accelerator program received 316 applications from 60 countries for this year’s call for applications. These startups showcase a wide range of diversity at the helm including 53 percent with at least one female founder, 30 percent with at least one black founder, 13 percent with at least one Latinx founder, and 17 percent with at least one Asian founder. By giving diverse startups some extra support up-front, it is hoped IBM can help ensure their success long-term. It’s just one example of the way Silicon Valley is taking notice of minority-owned businesses and the value they bring to the business table.
Hyper Protect Accelerator Give Companies a Voice
Reports show that if women entrepreneurs launched businesses at the same rate as men, the global economy would literally double from $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion. That’s growth that impacts all of us—positively—all over the world.
Not to mention, females and minorities bring unique perspectives to the table to address problems that might not be addressed by predominantly white, male, founder population. We have an unprecedented opportunity to help amplify these voices by supporting their companies.
IBM selected 30 companies to be part of the Hyper Protect Accelerator program with incredibly impactful ideas that, with the right support, could change the way our industries operate.
Datacy (female co-founder, UK), allows people to collect, access, manage, and sell their data transparently, giving data control back to people, rather than the companies benefiting from it. Can you imagine the possibilities if we are given the power to sell our own data? I’ve been a prominent advocate for the need for greater data transparency for years. This company will be important to watch.
MedPharma, was founded by two men from Ghana to provide fully digitized health networks, from providers to medicines to specialists. In many parts of the world, especially in Africa, healthcare is not easily accessible or affordable. MedPharma hopes to eliminate these issues by aggregating all the healthcare systems in one place to deliver healthcare to patients in a convenient way. There are several parts and populations of the US that could stand to benefit from this application. IBM is providing mentors, networks, and technology credits to help this business grow.
The Opportunity to Support Diversity and Inclusion in Startups
One of the most important issues facing women and minorities is access. Access to capital, mentors, networks, and just about everything else. Research shows investors put just $935,000 into the average woman-owned venture, versus $2.1 million for men. This, despite the fact that women-owned startups tend to perform better over time. Indeed, venture capital projects founded solely by women (without a male co-founder) received just 2.8 percent of total capital last year. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth to support groups that have historically been overlooked but can bring big bucks to the table.
Still, not all women and minority groups are impacted equally. Whereas 8 percent of venture capital companies are started by women, just 1 percent of those women are black, and less than ½ percent are Latina. In 2019, black women start-up founders received just $250 million in funding, versus $1.9 billion overall.
Luckily, groups like Transparent Collective are working to change the tide by providing these types of statistics to the investor community. Others, like Female Founders Alliance, Women Who Tech and POCIT (People of Color in Tech) are also working hard to advocate on behalf of start-up founders in minority communities—pushing through age-old barriers, creating networks of support, and lifting one another up to drive the entire industry forward.
Like IBM’s accelerator program, other companies are also taking efforts to improve the odds for minority-owned businesses in the tech space. Corigin Ventures committed $2.5 to black and Latinx general partners. PayPal committed to supporting black and other underrepresented minority-owned businesses to address economic inequality. More and more, companies are realizing that embracing a diverse perspective is hugely beneficial for all of us.
Be an Advocate
You don’t have to be an investor to make a difference in the lives of women and minority-owned businesses. Most startups gain users by word of mouth. When you hear about a female or minority-owned business, do what you can to support them. Try their app or product. Follow them on social media. Help tell their story.
If you’re in a position of power in a bigger company, look at ways you can help amplify their voices. Partnerships, investments of your time, or even just helping founders make connections in this industry can go a long way to help these companies get off the ground. If we want to see more diversity and inclusion in technology and the broader startup ecosystem, it will take all of us to make it happen. I hope that in the years to come we will see more programs like IBM’s Hyper Protect Accelerator to enable the voiceless to be heard.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.