We are honored to receive a $50,000 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition prize from the U.S. Small Business Association for our work creating programming opportunities that provide early-stage innovators with essential support, resources and funding, and for our work expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion measures within our E-Team program. The competition awarded a total of $5.4 million to 84 innovation-focused entrepreneur support organizations with programs to speed the launch and growth of deep-tech small businesses across the country. Read the SBA’s announcement for more details.
“We’re humbled to be recognized for our work creating and expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for emerging innovators to get the support they need to succeed,” said VentureWell President Phil Weilerstein. “This work is at the core of our mission, and it is critical to the success of early-stage science and technology innovators as they create, launch, and scale impactful new businesses.”
advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our early-stage innovator program
Since inception, the E-Team program has been designed to support science and technology student innovators. To date, we have supported over 650 E-Teams that have gone on to secure over $87M in SBIR/STTR funding from eight federal agencies. We’re proud of this work, but there is more to do to achieve our mission to support all innovators and entrepreneurs in their efforts to use science and technology to solve the world’s biggest problems. To be successful in doing that, we must ensure that diverse lived experiences are represented in our participants, and that teams welcome diversity of thought, experiences, and backgrounds to come together to realize the full potential of their innovations. We’ve committed to further increasing the participation of underrepresented innovators in our programs to outpace national averages.
With support from the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition prize, we will continue to implement our work to expand access and opportunities among students from underrepresented groups in innovation and entrepreneurship. Our recent Advancing Equity publication—a reflection on our journey to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work—outlined a number of initiatives to increase access to our programs for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups.
For example, Action Area One in our Advancing Equity report frames the question, “Why would I go if I’m not invited?” Using this question as a guidepost, we have continually refined our outreach approach to institutions and communities we aim to serve more effectively by prioritizing and investing in authentic relationships. This includes direct outreach efforts to our target populations and as well as offering individualized feedback through our Qualification Phase initiative.
The SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition prize will allow us to continue supporting student entrepreneurs creating innovative solutions to the world’s challenges. We will evaluate both our intentions and impact through our internal Action Planning Tool, a resource used by VentureWell programs and teams to engage in intentional conversations about how to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their work. You can access the tool in our new publication Transforming Programs Through an Equity Lens. As we continue to implement initiatives inspired by the Advancing Equity report action areas, we will return to our Action Planning Tool on a monthly basis to assess our efforts and outcomes.
Watch our GAFC submission video here.