Accenture (NYSE: ACN) has launched the Black Founders Development Program, a new initiative that will invest in and support Black technology startup founders and entrepreneurs. Led by Accenture Ventures, the program will seek to help Black business owners and leaders advance and grow their technology businesses through greater, more direct access to venture capital, corporate mentorship and strategic connections with Accenture business partners and clients.
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Accenture launches Black Founders Development Program
As part of the new program, Accenture Ventures is establishing the Black Founders Development Fund. The fund will make strategic investments in early-stage, Black-founded and -run software startups and other market development initiatives, applying Accenture’s vast technology, innovation and investment expertise, and powerful network of technology ecosystem partners. To help Black entrepreneurs achieve their goals and make a meaningful impact, the commitment of investment funds and a strong mentoring effort will be commensurate with Accenture Ventures’ approach with its most strategic funds. The fund will have an initial focus on North America, with plans to expand globally at a later date.
“Our Black Founders Development Program will help drive economic inclusion and create new advancement opportunities for Black business owners and leaders by bringing to bear the full power of our global technology business and extensive relationships with clients, partners and the venture capital community,” said Kathryn Ross, global Open Innovation lead and the Black Founders Development Program lead for Accenture Ventures. “Leadership, resources, technology and investment knowledge are all areas where Accenture can deliver significant support to Black entrepreneurs, helping them to accelerate innovation and further grow their businesses.”
According to a study by RateMyInvestor and VC Diversity, Black founders of companies receive less than 1% of all venture capital funding, which in the U.S. alone, totaled approximately $130 billion. Similarly, a Kauffman Foundation analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that 28% of Black entrepreneurs’ profits were limited by lack of access to capital, compared to just 10% of white entrepreneurs.
“Black entrepreneurs continue to innovate, but face bias and lack access to capital and opportunity in the venture capital community, receiving a disproportionately small amount of funding,” said Paul Daugherty, group chief executive – Technology and chief technology officer at Accenture. “Big change is clearly needed, and Accenture Ventures will help lead that change.”
To help guide its future investment strategy, Accenture Ventures has established a Black Founders Development Advisory Council made up of diverse, established business leaders and partners to help guide and mentor Black founders and CEOs. The first two council members appointed are Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks and the current chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, a community of nearly 800 women founders and leaders of emerging growth companies spanning the globe and across all industries; and Corey E. Thomas, chairman and CEO of Rapid7, Inc. (Nasdaq: RPD), a leading provider of security analytics and automation, who previously served on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors.
“We intend to play a meaningful role in creating the next generation of Black technology startups, and the demonstrated business leaders on our Black Founders Development Advisory Council are equally committed to sharing their experiences, insights and connections to help Black founders achieve their business objectives,” explains Ross. Accenture Ventures plans to announce additional advisory council members and its first participating founders in the coming months.
The Black Founders Development Program is part of Accenture’s broader effort to fight racism. On September 1, 2020, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet announced that by 2025 the company would increase the representation of African American and Black people in the organization from 9% to 12%; and increase the number of African American and Black managing directors from 2.8% to 4.4%. Other recent company actions include Ms. Sweet’s role as co-chair of the new 27-member New York Jobs CEO Council, a non-profit coalition of CEOs from leading companies that have pledged to hire 100,000 low-income New Yorkers from under-served communities over the next decade.
Launched in 2015, Accenture Ventures makes targeted equity investments in emerging technology startups, matching their capabilities with the business needs and priorities of Accenture’s clients. Its Open Innovation arm acts as a bridge to the global innovation ecosystem by bringing Accenture’s clients together with best-in-class, enterprise-relevant startups to unlock their growth potential and accelerate digital transformation.