Google for Startups invites black-led startups to apply for $4m Black Founders Fund
Google for Startups is inviting UK-based black-led tech startups to apply for this year’s Black Founders Fund worth a total of $4m (approximately £3m), in an effort to help tackle the stark inequality in venture capital (VC) funding.
The Black Founders Fund will be awarded to the most innovative Black-led tech startups across Europe with business plans that showcase how they’re using technology to pioneer creative solutions to all sorts of challenges, from the everyday to the epic. Google for Startups will give each successful company up to $100,000 in non-dilutive cash awards, $200,000 in cloud credits and ad support, 1:1 mentoring by industry experts, and invaluable connections within Google’s network.
The first Black Founders Fund, launched last year, offered $2m worth of funding to 30 Black-led startups across Europe, 20 of which are located in the UK. The funds were distributed by OneTech, a London based organization supporting underrepresented founders.
The initiative aims to help tackle racial inequality in venture capital funding. Prior to the program’s launch in 2020, less than 0.25% of venture capital (VC) funding went to black-led startups in the UK and only 38 black founders received venture capital funding in the last 10 years.
The success of last year’s cohort shows the impact that direct and targeted support can have in helping to level the playing field, by supporting Black founders who are disproportionately locked out of access to capital. Across Europe, the founders raised an additional $63m in follow-on funding and increased their headcount by 21%. In 2021, 7 of the 16 Black women to receive funding in the UK were part of the Black Founders Fund program and 8 of the founders were featured in Europe’s top 10 Black Founders to watch.
Last year’s UK-based founders represented a wide variety of industries, ranging from advertising, beauty, education, fitness, and healthcare and included:
- Audiomob – non-intrusive audio gaming specialist – raised a $14m (£10m) in Series A
- Definely – a legal technology business – raised $3m (£2.2m) in seed funding
- Scoodle – the education influencer platform – raised $1.9m (£1.4m) in a seed funding round
- Afrocenchix – the natural haircare e-commerce business – raised $1.2m (£896k) in its seed funding round
Partnering to enable Black Founders
ITV, WPP, Soho House, and Allen & Overy partnered with Google for Startups to provide support to last year’s grant recipients. ITV gave eligible UK-based startups the opportunity to take part in the network’s industry-leading program which provides £1m worth of airtime and production in 2022, equity free. TV ready startups – those with backend operations that could meet the demand TV would create – attended bespoke media education workshops to help familiarize them with the world of TV marketing. The founders of these businesses were also offered media planning and pilot spot production sessions to help bring their TV ads to life.
Founders across Europe were also offered access to WPP’s network of creative, award-winning agencies. The global company is providing marketing expertise and insights that will connect the startups to their audiences in meaningful ways. Soho House has provided each founder complimentary access to their members-only workspaces at Soho Works which brings together a creative and entrepreneurial community, as well as an annual Soho Friends membership. Allen & Overy hosted a specially tailored workshop which took the founders through the legal matters that startups should consider when growing and scaling their businesses, followed by a series of pro bono legal surgeries for the founders.
Marta Krupinska, head of Google for Startups UK said: “When we launched the Black Founders Fund last year, we received almost 800 applications from across Europe from truly incredible businesses, putting to bed the myth that the lack of representation in the startup space is due to a pipeline problem. This is why we’re excited to double this year’s fund, to scale our efforts to support Black startup founders and help address inequality in VC funding.”
Rachael Palmer, head of VC and Startup Partnerships, EMEA, Google said: “Many of last year’s startups are already generating significant returns for their early investors, that are in some cases more than 10 times higher than the initial investment in less than a year. The fund’s recipients have clearly demonstrated that there’s a whole world of untapped potential within the Black community and many overlooked investor opportunities. We’re keen to unlock even more of this talent. That’s why we’re doubling this year’s fund and inviting organizations that share our vision to join us in helping to transform the startup ecosystem, and facilitate more equal access to funding, so we can go further together.”
Ismail Jeilani, CEO and co-founder of Scoodle, said: “Beyond cash, one of the most valuable things that any investor can provide is the stamp of approval, or the recognition and signal in the market. That’s something that we can’t even quantify. It’s powerful to go into meetings being able to say that we’ve received funding and support from Google. That in itself elevates us to a certain level that may not have been there without Google. Since receiving the funding, we’ve tripled our monthly active users and raised additional capital.”
Ade Rawcliffe, ITV’s group director of diversity and inclusion, said: “The UK is one of the most startup-friendly environments in the world. Yet, Black startup founders are underserved in access to venture capital. According to an Atomico report, while Black and Multi-Ethnic communities represent 14 percent of the UK population, all-ethnic teams received 1.58% of all venture capital funding. In order to change this, we must work together. We are very grateful to Google for their highly successful European Black Founders Fund initiative and are super excited we can join them and WPP in providing £1m of airtime and therefore even more value to Black Founders.”
Karen Blackett, WPP UK country manager and GroupM UK CEO, said: “Developing an innovative idea, product or service is only the start; in order to grow your business you need to be able to communicate your vision and reach your audiences in a meaningful way. We know that starting a business is hard enough without tackling additional barriers as a Black founder, and WPP is proud to provide pro bono training and support through Google’s European Black Founders Fund to these start-ups that will become the global business leaders of the future.”
The Black Founders Fund is just one of the ways that Google is working to help support historically underrepresented groups. In addition to contributing to economic opportunities with this fund and YouTube’s Black Voices Fund our company is working to improve representation at senior levels internally. Externally, Google is working to ensure that its products help Black users, examples of this include the inclusive Real Tone technology on the camera of the Pixel 6, which helps to more accurately portray the skin tone of different ethnicities, as well as the Black-owned feature on Search and Maps which helps people to find and support Black-owned local businesses.