Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Virtual student-run accelerator aims to support underrepresented start-up founders

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 9th, 2020

A new virtual, student-run start-up accelerator aims to help underrepresented founders get their businesses off the ground.

Annabel Strauss, a senior at Brown University, and Eliana Berger, a sophomore at Northeastern University, launched the Envision accelerator after they were shut out of their respective campuses due to the coronavirus pandemic. They met on a Slack channel for student founders and quickly bonded over their passion for elevating women and minority founders in the typically white male-dominated world of venture capital.

“Eliana came to me and was like, ‘Hey, I want your feedback on this: What if there were a summer accelerator for underrepresented founders?'” Strauss says. “Within three days, we built our team of 10 students who were, like us, involved in VC and entrepreneurship at their respective schools. Our whole team came together virtually.”

The team includes students from Harvard, Brown, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt, Tufts, Northeastern, and the University of Michigan. In just a few months, they recruited mentors, sent out and reviewed applications for participating start-ups, developed curricula, and raised enough money to provide each start-up with $10,000 in non-dilutive grant funding.

Envision’s first cohort of 17 start-ups just graduated from the program. Some of these student founders come from Ivy League schools like Brown and Princeton, while others hail from the historically black Morehouse College and Montego Bay Community College in Jamaica. According to Strauss, it was important that Envision reached out specifically to HBCUs and women’s colleges to ensure a diverse set of founders.

“We didn’t want to go out after the Harvards and Stanfords of the country,” Strauss says. “That’s one reason we didn’t want to affiliate with a school or a venture fund. Our whole point is democratizing outreach.”

The accelerator is currently in the process of raising funds for a second cohort that would launch this fall.

Source: Rhode Island Inno

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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