The DC Inclusive Innovation Fund is a new program that will invest in and support early stage District businesses led by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ people and individuals with disabilities. In September 2018, the District selected The Marathon Foundation, a 501(c)3 led by investment veterans, to develop and manage the program.
The DC Inclusive Innovation Fund is one component of the Bowser Administration’s inclusive innovation strategy. In November 2016, the District released Pathways to Inclusion, a roadmap for making Washington, DC’s tech and innovation economy the most inclusive on the East Coast. This report was the first such assessment and revealed the importance of capital to achieving an inclusive innovation economy. The fund is also one of the strategic initiatives of Mayor Bowser’s Economic Strategy which focuses on making the District of Columbia the global model for inclusive prosperity through diversity and innovation.
The DC Inclusive Innovation Fund will invest in pre-seed, seed and pre-series A stage companies with at least 51% ownership by underrepresented entrepreneurs (i.e. those who identify as African American, Latino, Native American, women, LGBTQ, or disabled). The fund will target technology, technology-enabled and non-technology companies with potential to scale. The Marathon Foundation will also support prospective companies and entrepreneurs seeking investment with entrepreneurial training and education. The District will provide seed funding of $1.5 million to help the fund raise private capital to support DC entrepreneurs.
The Marathon Foundation is a philanthropic member organization whose mission is to accelerate the development of strategic relationships that will create access to capital, develop talent and create deals. TMF is led by a team of investment veterans, Vernon Lee, Jr. and Duane McKnight, who collectively have nearly four decades of investment, portfolio management and entrepreneurial experience and share a longtime commitment to investing in and supporting minority entrepreneurs.
In February 2018, the Bowser Administration, led by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), sought ideas on the design and approach for the Inclusive Innovation Fund through a Request for Information (RFI) and followed with a Request for Applications in April 2018. DMPED received more than 30 responses to the RFI that helped shape the District’s approach to improving access to capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs and received six applications from potential partners for the fund.