HBCU student and alumni-founded businesses are now able to access potential investors through the new HBCU Founders Initiative Look Book.
The HBCU Founders Initiative (HBCUFI), a nonprofit organization committed to supporting HBCU entrepreneurs and their businesses, launched the Look Book in early July.
The HBCUFI Look Book is a first-of-its-kind database that showcases HBCU student or alum-founded startups to investors. The goal is to make it easier for investors to discover the diverse talent coming out of HBCUs and for companies to promote their business to investors from all over the world.
The database is composed of the company’s name, summary, industry, funding stage, funding history, the amount raised, website, founder names, and LinkedIn profile for investors to see.
Marlon Evans, President of HBCUFI says that they are encouraging all companies founded by an HBCU student or alum to join the HBCU Look Book. “Whether they’re a Pre-Seed, Seed, Series A, B, or C Company, I think it’s important for all of those companies to be reflected,” said Evans. He’s looking to shift the mindset of the investor community around what’s possible for HBCU-led companies. “If we can show, hey, look at these four or five companies led by HBCU founders that are now raising Series C rounds, that gives a level of comfort when they [investors] see another HBCU group come to them.”
The Look Book is an extension of HBCUFI’s work supporting HBCU founders on their entrepreneurial journey. HBCUFI supports HBCU founders by offering programs, events, and financial and advisory resources.
The HBCU Founders Initiative’s current program is the new Pre-Accelerator program.
HBCUFI partnered with seven HBCUs for the first time for their new Fall and Spring Pre-Accelerator program. Students from Elizabeth City State University, Spelman College, Prairie View A&M University, Morgan State University, and North Carolina A&T University have the opportunity to complete an eight-week program designed to help them build their businesses. At the end of the program, students will be eligible to receive non-dilutive program awards in support of MVP development. Students and alumni who didn’t attend one of the seven participating universities will be able to participate in a Fall-only virtual accelerator.
Evans details the hands-on approach the organization takes to help the participants be successful in building their businesses. “The founders come to us with an idea and we help them think about their go-to-market strategy, customer acquisition and discovery, how they’re going to raise capital, and milestones they need to hit in order to raise money from different investors.”
Evans advises blossoming HBCU entrepreneur students to join the accelerator programs and to take a chance on their business idea. “I just think as a student, that’s the best time to explore, see what’s possible, it’s a great experience, you’ll learn a lot in terms of just that entrepreneurial mindset,” Evans said. “If you have an idea, give it a go. Try to flesh it out and see where you can take it.”