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Accenture Seeks to Support Black Tech Entrepreneurs

Accenture has launched a Black Founders Development Program to invest in and support Black technology startup founders and entrepreneurs, the global IT consulting giant announced today.

Led by Accenture Ventures, the program will help Black business owners and leaders grow their technology businesses through more direct access to venture capital, corporate mentorship and strategic connections with Accenture business partners and clients, according to Accenture.

The Black Founders Development Fund will make strategic investments in early-stage, Black-founded and Black-run software startups, applying Accenture’s technology, innovation and investment expertise and leveraging the professional services company’s network of technology ecosystem partners, Accenture said in the statement. The fund will initially focus on North America, with plans to expand globally at a later date.

Accenture Black Founders Development Program Supports Black Tech Entrepreneurs

According to a study by RateMyInvestor and Diversity VC, Black startup founders receive less than 1% of all venture capital funding, which, in the U.S. alone, totaled approximately $130 billion. A Kauffman Foundation analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that 28% of Black entrepreneurs’ profits were limited by lack of access to capital, compared to just 10% of white entrepreneurs.

“Black entrepreneurs continue to innovate, but face bias and lack access to capital and opportunity in the venture capital community, receiving a disproportionately small amount of funding,” said Paul Daugherty, group chief executive – technology and chief technology officer at Accenture. “Big change is clearly needed, and Accenture Ventures will help lead that change.”

Accenture Ventures launched in 2015 and makes targeted equity investments in emerging technology startups that align with Accenture client priorities and business needs, according to the company. Its Open Innovation arm makes connections between clients and enterprise-relevant startups worldwide to serve both clients and accelerate those startups’ growth potential, according to the statement.

Accenture joins a host of other technology companies taking public stands to fight injustice and inequality, including Cisco, Zoom, eBay, Intel and HP. Moreover, a group of U.S. companies is pledging to add a Black director to their boards within the next year in a bid to diversify and help accelerate more inclusion in corporate America, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, Accenture is taking steps to achieve more diversity internally. On September 1, 2020, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet announced that by 2025 the company would increase the representation of African American and Black people in the organization from 9% to 12%; and increase the number of African American and Black managing directors from 2.8% to 4.4%.

Black Founders Development Advisory Council

Kathryn Ross, global Open Innovation lead, Black Founders Development Program lead, Accenture Ventures
Kathryn Ross, global Open Innovation lead, Black Founders Development Program lead, Accenture Ventures

Accenture Ventures also established a Black Founders Development Advisory Council to help guide its future investment strategy, according to the statement. The advisory council is made up of diverse, established business leaders and partners that can provide guidance and mentorship to Black founders and CEOs, according to Accenture.

The first two council members appointed are Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks and the current chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, a community of nearly 800 women founders and leaders of emerging growth companies and Corey E. Thomas, chairman and CEO of Rapid7, Inc., a security analytics and automation provider, who previously served on the U.S. Commerce Department's Digital Economy Board of Advisors, according to the statement.

“Our Black Founders Development Program will help drive economic inclusion and create new advancement opportunities for Black business owners and leaders by bringing to bear the full power of our global technology business and extensive relationships with clients, partners and the venture capital community,” said Kathryn Ross, global Open Innovation lead and the Black Founders Development Program lead for Accenture Ventures. “Leadership, resources, technology and investment knowledge are all areas where Accenture can deliver significant support to Black entrepreneurs, helping them to accelerate innovation and further grow their businesses.”

Accenture Ventures plans to announce additional advisory council members and its first participating founders in the coming months.