Lyneir Richardson offers 4 ways that tech accelerators can increase diversity and inclusiveness in NJBIZ

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Newark, NJ


By Lyneir Richardson, executive director, The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Rutgers Business School.

Technology accelerators provide entrepreneurs with access to seed capital, business relationships, guidance and office space. Over the last 18 months, three accelerators have opened in Newark with great fanfare. The investors and corporations that have funded these accelerators have been praised for being committed to Newark's revitalization.

The individuals behind the accelerators have expressed their understanding of the importance of racial and gender diversity among the entrepreneurs with whom they'll be teaming. Tom Wisniewski, who is the managing director of venture capital fund Newark Venture Partners, said that his firm will "look to support a diverse set" of entrepreneurs, "including women and minorities."

While there's talk of diversity, the truth is that less than 5 percent of the teams that are admitted into Newark's accelerator programs are led by a Black or Latino owner. Many have approached the accelerators with tech venture ideas, but they've often been denied or deferred for a variety of reasons.

I've been contacted by well-educated and talented minority startup owners whose businesses offer valuable solutions for the ed tech, defense, and other large national markets. Unfortunately, their growth and revenue potential are severely constricted because of their inability to attain seed capital and early stage support from investors.

I believe that part of the reason why Black and Latino teams haven't been given a proper shot is due to unconscious bias in the accelerators' and investors' selection process. To remedy this challenge, here are four suggestions that would help accelerators in Newark (and beyond) to offers opportunities to Black and Latino entrepreneurs who are seeking to build promising technology companies:

1. Focus on inclusion in the selection/admission process
2. Add Black and Latino investors
3. Leverage minority-targeted events to foster outreach
4. Consider the local benefits that a $50M company can deliver

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TAGS: Lyneir Richardson Management and Global Business Newark Venture Partners The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development