Philly’s BIPOC Entrepreneurs Get New Promises to Fund Businesses and Correct a Historic Deficit
Kimberly Wilson, a Black woman who struggled to get white doctors to take her symptoms seriously after a 2017 fibroids diagnosis, founded digital start-up HUED a year later to enable Black and Latino patients to find culturally sensitive medical care.
Wilson is a model for what many in the region hope to encourage: a Black female entrepreneur who’s raised venture capital in Philadelphia to build a business.
Up until the killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) founders and entrepreneurs started businesses at a high rate but were often starved for capital. Amid the heightened focus on social equity issues, nearly a dozen new investment funds have launched in the Philadelphia region, aspiring to raise at least $300 million or more for BIPOC business owners.
The need is acute. Among five major East Coast cities, Philadelphia had the lowest number of businesses per 1,000 residents in 2017, according to a report released last year by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corp. Philadelphia also had the lowest number of Black-owned firms in relation to Black residents, and large racial disparities in business ownership.
Ben Franklin Tech Partners / PACT
Ben Franklin Technology Partners Southeastern Pennsylvania has invested $6.1 million so far in its fiscal 2021. Of that, about one-third, or 31 companies, are BIPOC-led, and 42% are led by women. Its most recent diversity investment was on Jan 5, 2021, when Avisi Technologies raised $988,000. Cofounded by Rui Jing and Brandon Kao, the biotechnology start-up works on nanotech defenses against blindness.
Ben Franklin also partnered with the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies, or PACT, which nurtures local risk takers, and will open up its mentorship program to all BIPOC entrepreneurs, not just its members, said Jason Bannon at Ben Franklin. To find a free business mentor, visit PACT’s website: https://philadelphiapact.com/mentor-connect/.
While Philadelphia is a diverse community, “our investment and emerging tech community is not,” said PACT President Dean Miller. “This partnership with Ben Franklin is an effort to change that.”
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