A group of influential ecosystem leaders has joined forces to launch a groundbreaking collective to support, fund, and sustain Black innovators.
Launched this year, the Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) is a coalition of organizations that serve tech founders, entrepreneurs, and creative technologists. The goal is to ensure Black ownership increases through equitable participation in the innovation economy.
The brainchild of BIA are ecosystem builders Kelly Burton and Aniya L. Williams. More than 40 Black leaders or founding members have also joined to advance this game-changing work. The first-of-its-kind entity is on a mission to create pathways to Black prosperity and empowerment.
Aniya Williams, of Black & Brown Founders and founding co-convener of BIA, says she hopes this unifying alliance will help centralize organizations that already offer Black and brown founders’ support systems for their businesses.
“People just don’t know that we exist,” Williams tells UrbanGeekz. “We thought that by banding together […] we would be able to both build up a presence and awareness to reduce some of the fragmentation that’s happening out there.”
This, she says, has the potential to “unlock more opportunities” for Black founders to help scale their ventures in an industry that is notoriously insular. It will also keep organizations that made pledges to invest in the Black community following the death of George Floyd more accountable, she adds.
In fact, according to data from the Transparent Collective, only 1% of VC funded startup founders are Black. Yet black entrepreneurs are continuing to build innovative tech-enabled startups, with African-American women starting businesses faster than any other demographic.
These stats and the growing wealth gap between Blacks and their peers serve as the motivation for Preston James, a founding partner in BIA and CEO of DivInc, an early-stage tech startup accelerator based in Austin, Texas.
“What we’ve been doing for the past 50 years has worked to a certain extent, but it seems as though progress has stalled,” says James. “We continue to do the same things we’ve been doing and it’s time to change it up.”
These issues, he says, necessitate organizations like BIA to solve a problem that has dogged the U.S. for centuries.
“For me, BIA represents an opportunity to create the transformational change we need,” says James. “My hope is that BIA founding partners and other partners will help Black entrepreneurship achieve parity with their peers in the U.S. over the next 10 years. By doing so, we’ll be able to generate millions of jobs, generate hundreds of $300B+ in revenue, increase our GDP, increase racial income, and wealth within the black community.”
Roshawnna Novellus, a fellow founding partner in BIA and CEO of fintech platform EnrichHer agrees. “It’s important for all of us who are focused on the uplifting of black-owned businesses to work together,” says Novellus. “The Black Innovation Alliance provides a mechanism for us as leaders of entrepreneur support organizations to collaborate, leverage, and extend our efforts.”
She believes that BIA has the scope to “change the narrative” and create pathways to increase the economic power of Black business owners.
BIA writes on its site that Black innovators are, “chronically under-appreciated, under-supported, underestimated, and underfunded” and without coordination, “innovators of color will be limited in their ability to participate in and benefit from the innovation economy.”
“Covid-19 has unmasked longstanding income and health disparities,” says BIA founding member and UrbanGeekz CEO Kunbi Tinuoye. “This clearly demonstrates the urgent need to close the racial wealth gap through the innovation economy, which will continue to drive economic growth in the U.S. and across the globe.”
Over the next decade, BIA plans to recruit at least 500 organizations to serve founders, entrepreneurs, and creative technologists working in and around the innovation economy. Within the first six to 12 months, BIA hopes to raise $10 million from supporters and $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Disclosure: UrbanGeekz is a member of the Black Innovation Alliance.
Main Image: Black Innovation Alliance Founding Members