It was announced Feb. 18 that Drexel University and the University City Science Center will receive a grant from Raynier Institute and Foundation totaling $500,000 to support minority entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. Within the last five years, although there has been an increase in start-ups created by minority entrepreneurs, less than one-quarter of all businesses were started by minorities. To improve this statistic, the three institutions hope to allocate the money efficiently in order to cater to minority business needs and promote diversity within the start-up world.
“Inequity around access to capital is well-documented. This seed fund, made possible by the Raynier Institute and Foundation to assist underrepresented founders, will be a great asset for Philadelphia to help increase the diversity of its innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem,” said Shintaro Kaido, the Vice Provost for Innovation and the Executive Director at the Office of Applied Innovation at Drexel.
Kaido will be one of the managers across all three organizations to oversee the Raynier seed fund. They will collectively choose from an array of investment candidates from Drexel’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, Office of Research and Innovation and Drexel and University City Science Center’s commercial programs.
The Raynier Institute and Foundation is the driving force of this impactful collaboration. Based in Seattle but garnered with Philadelphia-roots, the organization has a mission to fund projects that will inevitably better humanity. Its strategic partnership with Drexel aligns with their mission statement; through its Office of Research and Innovation programs and the Charles D. Close School’s Baiada Institute Incubator competition, Drexel repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to minority entrepreneurs over the last few years.
“Support from the Raynier Institute and Foundation will enable the Science Center and Drexel to increase support to minority founders to ensure Philadelphia’s innovation community is more representative of Philadelphia’s demographics,” said the President and CEO of the University Science Center, Tiffany Wilson.
The selection committee will be composed of picks from three representatives of the three institutions partaking in this exciting opportunity. The committee will help choose applicants to receive needed seed money and general support. The investments will be solely managed by Drexel, and all returns on investments will be reinvested into the fund to keep it going.
“We know that entrepreneurs need capital to propel their ideas into reality. Seed funding in the initial stages of a new venture is critical not only to survival but also to the ability of the firm to pivot as needed,” said Donna DeCarolis, the founding dean of the Close School of Entrepreneurship.
Not only will this fund help close the “minority-gap” found in start-up ventures within Philadelphia, but it will garner innovation and jobs within the underserved communities found in the city.
“This seed fund, targeted at underrepresented entrepreneurs, will accelerate innovation and job creation among minority entrepreneurs in our region,” said DeCarolis.
Within the next few years, the initial $500,000 will transform Philadelphia into a more diverse and innovative area for start-up ventures, with Drexel being the epicenter of it all.