Pharrell Williams has launched a new initiative to empower Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Dubbed Black Ambition, the non-profit initiative seeks to provide a bridge to success for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who are launching tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products/services start-ups.
Williams, who is widely known for his hit song Happy, said at a virtual conference that the inspiration behind the initiative is to give voice to underserved communities. Also, the long term goal of the initiative is to make entrepreneurship a norm in underserved communities.
According to one study, racism and lack of investment in Black communities have cost the U.S economy $16 trillion. The study also said if the investment were made in black communities, the U.S economy will grow by 5 trillion in the next five years.
“We need a voice,” Williams said.” We have the smallest slice of the American pie, in terms of ownership. The Asian dollar stays in this community for about 30 days; our Jewish brothers and sisters, their dollar stays in every community for 20 days. The African-American dollar stays in its community for six hours, because we don’t own much.”
The Grammy-winning artist and producer announced two prize competitions as part of the launch– The Black Ambition HBCU Prize and The Black Ambition Prize– which will culminate in one major national event to be held in July 2021. The competing teams will compete for these prizes by presenting to luminary judges and investors.
“Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success,” a statement from Williams said.
“With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”
The Black Ambition HBCU prize will offer prizes and mentorship for current and former students at HBCUs as they develop seed or early-stage ideas and launch companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services. The grand prize winner will receive up to a $250,000 prize and at least nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes.
The Black Ambition prize, on the other hand, will find, support, and seed early-stage companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services.
Ventures must have at least one founder or co-founder that identifies as Black/African/African-American and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/Latinx. The grand prize winner will receive up to a $1 million prize and at least nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes.
A senior advisor for Black Ambition and partner at Bridgespan, Willa Seldon, notes that the initiative also aims to highlight the fact that there is a huge market opportunity. According to him, in 2019, Black and Latinx folks spent $3 trillion in the marketplace. “That’s a market that’s worth investing,” he said.
The Black Ambition has raised funding from Adidas, Chanel, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation, Tony’s Chocolonely, and the Visa Foundation. Also, applicants who apply for Black Ambition will gain access to Betaworks studios, a startup and seed-stage company focused on early consumer-facing companies.