Music visionary and philanthropist Pharrell Williams is advancing his efforts to level the playing field for Black and Brown founders in the world of entrepreneurship. It was recently revealed that he’s awarding $2.5 million to innovators of color to help fund their ventures as part of his Black Ambition Prize initiative.
Access to capital has been a longstanding obstacle for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Research shows they receive less than three percent of VC funding in the U.S. Determined to change the narrative, Williams cultivated the nonprofit Black Ambition to provide underrepresented founders with the resources needed to grow and elevate their businesses. Under the nonprofit’s umbrella is The Black Ambition Prize, which annually includes capital for entrepreneurs who have launched ventures in tech, healthcare, media and entertainment and other sectors.
“We need a voice,” he shared in a statement discussing the launch of Black Ambition two years ago. “We have the smallest slice of the American pie in terms of ownership. The Asian dollar stays in this community for about 30 days; our Jewish brothers and sisters, their dollar stays in every community for 20 days. The African-American dollar stays in its community for six hours because we don’t own much. With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”
On Nov. 1, Williams will return to his hometown of Norfolk to provide 31 entrepreneurs at the Mighty Dream Forum with endowments and also give grants to HBCU scholars who have launched businesses. Past winners include the company Livegistics—which uses technology to streamline processes within the construction industry—and Dosso Beauty, a company created by an HBCU student which provides affordable and organic hair and beauty products.
News about this year’s Black Ambition Prize comes months after Williams teamed up with the tech company Cisco to equip youth with the digital tools needed to thrive in the classroom.
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