Minnesota Innovators Creating Buzz, Hoping to Open Doors for Other Black Entrepreneurs

Kavita Kumar reported recently at the Minneapolis Star Tribune Online that, “While tech companies with black founders are still few and far between in the white-dominated startup world, three such firms from the Twin Cities have found some recent success in landing highly coveted spots in a prominent accelerator program.

“It’s a milepost that the three leaders — Tyrre Burks of Player’s Health, James Jones of Spark DJ and Clarence Bethea of Upsie — hope will inspire more black entrepreneurs to launch businesses as well as encourage more venture capital firms to invest in companies with leaders who look like them.

“‘It’s awesome for three black founders to come from the same place and show the potential and the ability that might be untapped,’ said Jones, who left a job at Target Corp. in 2016 to create an app that acts as a personalized, electronic DJ that mixes music and takes requests. ‘This is a step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made.'”

The Star Tribune article stated, “Fundraising is often the biggest hurdle for any startup. It is often an even bigger challenge for startups with black founders. A report from CB Insightsin 2010 found that only 1 percent of startups receiving funding had black founders.”

The article added, “All three of these startups have either recently completed or are in the midst of one of Techstar’s three-month-long boot camps. The well-respected accelerators, which have made increasing diversity a goal, are highly competitive with hundreds of startups vying for a handful of spots in each of the programs.

While most startups fail, the success rate of startups that go through Techstars is much higher, with graduates crediting the mentorship they receive and help connecting with investors.”

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