City Seeks Proposals from Startup Operators to Support Underrepresented Tech Founders

The NYC Economic Development Corporation is expanding the Founder Fellowship program to support more entrepreneurs in building tech and tech-enabled businesses. On July 22, 2022, NYC Economic Development Corporation issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for operators to join the Founder Fellowship, a program that supports women and BIPOC entrepreneurs in the tech industry.

Thanks to a $1.5 million investment from the City, EDC is expanding the fellowship by adding one or more operators, with the goal of supporting approximately 100 founder teams. Currently, the inaugural Fellowship cohort supports eight founder teams, including The Drivers Cooperative, Make It Black, SXD, Hydronomy, re/tell, Farm to Flame Energy, Wearworks and REDIST.

Launched in February 2022, the Founder Fellowship is part of EDC’s Venture Access NYC initiative. Venture Access NYC brings together industry leaders, investors, and a diverse group of tech entrepreneurs to build a more inclusive tech startup ecosystem.

The fellowship supports Venture Access NYC’s mission by helping cohorts of underrepresented founders overcome systemic barriers in fundraising and network building. Founder cohorts receive supports like:

– Cohort meetings to discuss challenges and get business administration support

– Individualized work plans to identify key needs and interests

– Connections to capital providers and potential collaborators

– Access to mentor and advisor networks

Nationally, startups led solely by women founders received about two percent of venture funding in 2021, while startups led by Black and Latinx founders generally receive less than three percent of total funding raised. NYCEDC launched the inaugural Founder Fellowship with Newlab to combat these disparities and ensure that diverse talent can flourish in NYC.

EDC is now seeking proposals from operators with substantial entrepreneurship networks and proven business-development success. All interested operators must submit their responses to the RFP by Friday August 26, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

An optional virtual informational session was held on Monday, August 1, 2022. Proposers who were unable to attend can access a slide deck from the informational here.

Inaugural cohort member Make It Black shared with CityLand that “the Founder Fellowship champions underrepresented pioneers in science and technology to bring their companies to new levels with support of Newlab and the NYCEDC. This fellowship helps put New York at the forefront of innovation in science, technology, and sustainable futures.”

Mayor Adams shared that his administration is “committed to fostering a tech industry that is more inclusive and equitable than ever before, and one that looks like the diverse community it serves”, noting that “Fellowships like this one help ensure that all of our communities can benefit from the tremendous opportunities that tech has to offer.”

EDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball praised the Fellowship expansion, stating, “New York City’s entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our city unique. The release of our Venture Access RFP will allow EDC to scale the invaluable Founder Fellowship program; remove barriers of entry for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds; and ensure sustainable equitable economic growth as the tech sector continues to boom.”

Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer added, “Building on its pilot successes, an expansion of the Founder Fellowship will continue to level the playing field for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds – giving them much-needed access to capital, resources, and networks to help them grow their companies.”

By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

NYCEDC Issues Request for Proposals (RFP) for Startup Program Operators Focused on Supporting Underrepresented Founders, July 22, 2022.


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