While the coronavirus pandemic has been hard for businesses around the country, it’s hit one group particularly hard: early-stage startup founders.
Startups are struggling. Seed stage funding dropped by more than 20% in the first quarter of the year, as many investors decided to hit pause on future investments. That’s only exacerbated some of the gaps that already existed in venture capital – between startups in Silicon Valley and startups in the middle of the country, or between white founders and founders of color.
That means there’s a greater need than ever to support the incubators and accelerators that help entrepreneurs who sit in investor blind spots. These “entrepreneur support organizations” have recently been ramping up their on-demand content, virtualizing their resources, creating online pitch days and continuing to provide support to their member companies despite their own financial uncertainty.
This week we’re announcing a continued partnership with Travelers to support our VilCap Communities platform and six incubators and accelerators that are focused on uplifting underserved entrepreneurs. Each of these incredible organizations is helping diverse entrepreneurs in a particular geography to get the funding and support they need to grow and scale:
- WEPOWER supports Black and Latinx founders building businesses that create living-wage jobs for community members living in poverty in St. Louis, Missouri.
- Goodie Nation accelerates relationships for diverse-led startups & social impact startups to influencers, corporations, and investors.
- Lunar Startups supports high-growth startups led by founders who identify as women, Black, Indigenous, people of color and LGBTQ in St. Paul, Minnesota.
- MetaBronx supports startup founders who are under-represented in the innovation economy -- women, people of color, LGBTQ -- and inventors of technology-based solutions to large-scale problems.
- reSET supports impact-driven businesses with a double and sometimes triple bottom line based in Hartford, Connecticut.
- Black Girl Ventures supports black and brown female founders with programming and pitch events across 12 U.S. cities.
Each of these organizations will continue to receive free access to our VilCap Communities platform, which includes best practices, curriculum program tools and financial support through the Travelers grant.
What is VilCap Communities?
In 2016, Village Capital began partnering with incubators and accelerators around the world to provide best practices, curriculum and other program resources through VilCap Communities. Since then, we have partnered with 55 ESOs who have run 60 programs in over a dozen countries, training and investing in 425 early-stage impact-driven startups.
Through the support of institutions like the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, UKDFID, and Travelers, we’ve been able to democratize the decades-old peer-selection investor model to reach even more founders who are under-resourced and underrepresented in the typical venture capital funding landscape.
Unrestricted Operational Support
In response to the massive uncertainty of the global pandemic, our partnership with these organizations calls for an unexpected bonus.
While some of these ESOs are funded by the startups they work with directly, many – including Village Capital – are nonprofits supported by foundations, economic development agencies and a blended group of financiers passionate about helping startups in their own backyards. But what happens when a grant gifted to a nonprofit is contingent upon in-person or program-specific support?
How can foundations better support their grantees who are helping startups during the COVID-19 pandemic? The answer is relatively simple: convert program-driven grants to general operating expenses for nonprofits to work as quickly as possible to build the technology needed to keep training and connecting their startups to the right resources.
There is no individual or community that won’t be impacted in some way by COVID-19. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or part of the entrepreneur support community, now is not the time to hit pause. In fact, it’s time to put our foot on the accelerator!
For anyone interested in becoming a Community through a grant, sponsorship or by working directly with Village Capital, please email Emily Edwards.