Program Aims to Support Underrepresented Entrepreneurs
The Bowser Administration recentlyy released a Request for Applications (RFA) for an investment partner to develop and manage the Inclusive Innovation Fund, a new program that aims to invest in early stage District businesses led by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ people and individuals with disabilities. The District will make available seed funding of up to $1.5 million in Fiscal Year 2018 to help an investment professional partner build out a program.
“This announcement moves us a step closer to breaking down financial barriers and helps ensure all Washingtonians, including underrepresented entrepreneurs, share in our continued prosperity,” said Mayor Bowser. “When we provide opportunities to those who need it most like the underrepresented entrepreneur, we continue to build a stronger, smarter DC and that is a win for all Washingtonians.”
In February, the Bowser Administration sought ideas on the design and approach for the Inclusive Innovation Fund through a Request for Information (RFI). The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development received more than 30 responses that helped shape the District’s approach to improving access to capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs leading early stage, high growth companies in DC.
In November 2016, the District released Pathways to Inclusion, a roadmap for making Washington, DC’s tech and innovation economy the most inclusive in the nation. This report was the first such assessment and revealed the importance of capital to achieving an inclusive innovation economy. A survey of entrepreneurs conducted for the report showed that access to capital was the most frequently cited barrier to inclusiveness for minority entrepreneurs, followed by: implicit bias, access to networks, and access to talent enabling programs. It also revealed that less than half of minority entrepreneurs surveyed had managed to obtain funding for their companies; none received venture capital investment, half received angel investments or philanthropic gifts, and half relied on family and friends, their personal savings, and credit cards.
The Bowser Administration seeks to break down some of these barriers by working with private sector partners to increase access to capital for DC entrepreneurs, especially underrepresented entrepreneurs. The Inclusive Innovation Fund will complement existing financial resources available to District entrepreneurs, including the Great Streets grant program and the DC BizCAP programs administered by the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.
The deadline to submit a response is May 30, 2018. To view the RFA, go to dmped.dc.gov.