(Washington, DC) – Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) today awarded $400,000 in Innovation Accelerator Grants, a new initiative to increase access to business development and financial support for DC-based businesses led by underrepresented entrepreneurs who may not otherwise secure the resources and access to capital needed to scale their business.
“As we continue to build Washington, DC into the capital of inclusive innovation, we are investing in the ideas and people that otherwise might not get the support they need to ensure success,” said Mayor Bowser. “These grants bring us one step closer to ensuring all Washingtonians, including underrepresented entrepreneurs, are able to share in our city’s continued prosperity and, in turn, create more opportunities for our residents.”
Three businesses were awarded grants and will be responsible for helping entrepreneurs develop scalable tech or tech-enabled businesses, form strategic partnerships, and raise investment capital needed to grow a sustainable venture.
- 2Gether-International received a grant of $75,000 to operate an incubator program for entrepreneurs with disabilities, with a focus on developing entrepreneurial skills. The program includes access to mentors, financial, and social capital, coupled with support for disability-related accommodations. The program will culminate in demo/pitch day with the possibility of additional funding support.
- Cureate will provide a food and beverage entrepreneurship accelerator program with its $150,000 grant to connect underrepresented entrepreneurs with a series of industry expert-led workshops, wrap-around technical assistance, and access to mentors/resources to build financial and social capital. The program will culminate in a vendor fair and pitch competition with prizes including additional financial support.
- Street Entrepreneurs received a grant of $175,000 to led a city-wide accelerator focused on creating access to education, mentorship, and capital for small businesses and tech-enabled start-ups. Street Entrepreneurs mirrors the demographics of the neighborhoods in which it operates, ensuring access to underrepresented founders. The program will run in each Ward, with access to limited wrap-around services to encourage the participation of residents who may otherwise be excluded from business accelerator programs. The city-wide accelerator culminates with Street Pitch, which leverages peer-selection to showcase the cohorts' grittiest and wittiest founders, with engagements from partner organizations, angel investors, and crowdfunding communities.
DMPED also awarded a $100,000 grant through its pilot Investor Engagement Program, an effort to increase awareness of capital and industry investment opportunities in the District. The grantee, MAVA, will create a program consisting of a familiarization tour, company showcase, and pitch event to highlight investable businesses as well as the entrepreneurial support and other elements necessary to attract investment that advance business and enterprise growth for the District in an inclusive and resilient manner.
The Innovation Accelerator Grants and Investor Engagement Program are additional components 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. Since then, the Bowser Administration has opened the Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) at Howard University, the nation’s first affordable co-working incubator focused on diversity and inclusion; and created the DC Inclusive Innovation Fund, a program that will invest in early stage District businesses led by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and individuals with disabilities. This fund is a complement existing financial resources available to District entrepreneurs, including the Great Streets grant program and Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, administered by DMPED, and the DC BizCAP programs, administered by the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking. These efforts are also part of the strategic initiatives of Mayor Bowser’s Economic Strategy which focuses on making Washington, DC the global model for inclusive prosperity through diversity and innovation.