How Philly Startup Leaders Turned a Tweet Into $450K for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

It started with an email, followed by a tweet, and led to almost half a million dollars in new grant funds for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

On May 31, after protests against police brutality and systemic racism began spreading across the country, Philly Startup Leaders Executive Director Kiera Smalls sent an email to a list of roughly 350 startup founders and CEOs about what they can do to support employees of color and how they can take action, including information about PSL’s work to develop and fund diverse founders. The City of Philadelphia had given PSL $150,000 in last year’s budget to fund grants to those founders, but she wrote that the city’s budget cuts amid the Covid-19 crisis might mean it was the first and last time the organization would receive those funds.

Three days later, she tweeted that “in a dream world” PSL could set up a fund to award grants to underrepresented entrepreneurs. The city’s funding was a start, she wrote, but said they can do more. She followed it up with another tweet wondering what could be done at a local level to create a version of Softbank’s new $100 million fund for founders of color, and threw out a number of “$500,000+.”

Two weeks later, her dream has come true. Leaders at Philadelphia-based goPuff, which landed a $750 million investment from Softbank last year, announced on June 4 they would donate $150,000 to PSL to award the grants. A week later, the region’s most prolific seed fund, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, tweeted it would donate $150,000 upfront and another $100,000 in matching donations. Including the city’s grant, those donations pushed PSL to $450,000 in grant funding for underrepresented founders with a chance to reach $650,000.

“It was like momentum had started brewing on that tweet thread,” Smalls said.

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