Venture for America, Uber and UBS Partner Together to Help 300 Women and People of Color Become Entrepreneurs by 2021
June 13, 2019
Partnering Together to Change the Face of Entrepreneurship
Venture For America (VFA), a two-year fellowship program for recent college graduates interested in entrepreneurship and working in a fast-paced, innovative startup environment, announced that it has launched a new initiative called Operation 3 to 300 that will help 300 women and people of color to launch businesses through their Fellowship by 2021. Uber and UBS have both signed on as sponsors of the initiative and have committed $1M to the effort.
Nationally, startups and the technology sector are dominated by males and skew heavily in favor of white and Asian employees. As of 2016, according to the Harvard Business Review, only 9% of venture-backed firms have female CEOs. Racial diversity statistics have been even bleaker. Data from 2010 revealed that 91% of employees in Silicon Valley tech firms were white or Asian. Only 1% percent of VC goes to black founders and only 10% of tech workers are Black or LatinX and 26% are women. Startups are the best breeding grounds for entrepreneurs. The lack of diversity among startup employees today means that the entrepreneurs of the future will continue to be largely white and male.
Venture For America, Uber and UBS are changing this. VFA’s two-year Fellowship program, which places post-grads in startups in 14 cities, is directly influencing who can become an entrepreneur in this country by lowering the barriers to entry. VFA Fellows work for two years in a startup and have access to ongoing mentorship, training, and investments, including a Seed Fund and an Accelerator program. After establishing this goal and designing the program, they set out to find strategic partners to achieve their mission. VFA is excited to announce that Uber has joined longtime partner UBS in taking a stance towards diversifying the field of entrepreneurship. This partnership will allow VFA to provide tailored trainings, support, and investment to those who have been historically marginalized in the industry.
“There are too many barriers to entrepreneurship and not enough incentives. To help someone start a business you have to invest in their idea and validate them early. Early stage support can be a game-changing catalyst for a young person starting a company. We’re incredibly excited to partner with high-powered and influential brands like Uber and UBS to directly invest in women and people of color in our program.” – Amy Nelson, CEO of Venture For America
VFA occupies a unique position in bridging the gap between skill training, job placement and investing in early-stage founders. Many organizations focus on training talent at the top of the funnel or investing in new businesses at the end of the pipeline. Few specialize in getting them jobs. By moving VFA Fellows through the pipeline and supporting them at each step, VFA is one of the only organizations that are actually able to influence who becomes an entrepreneur.
Since 2015, VFA has made recruitment of women and people from underrepresented groups a priority. As a result, the organization has already seen exciting success stories for women and people of color.
Sara Cullen, who graduated in VFA’s inaugural class of 2012, is the founder of GEM. GEM is the first real-food daily vitamin, specifically focused on female health.
Jamie Norwood and Cynthia Plotch, both 2015 Fellows, just launched the beta version of their D2C pregnancy test company, Stix. Stix aims to disrupt the buying process for pregnancy tests and provide a discreet and safe consumer experience.
Mugha Eltigani, a 2014 graduate of VFA, is the co-founder and CEO of NaturAll Club. NaturAll Club is a subscription-based avocado hair care product line. Muhga and her team were just accepted to Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 Batch where they will gain access to world-class entrepreneurs and secured a $1mm investment from Richelieu Dennis, founder of Shea Moisture. This investment adds her to the short list of black women who have raised $1M+ in funding.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, has supported Venture For America through his personal philanthropy for many years. He saw the 3 to 300 campaign as a perfect way to bring Uber on board as a strategic partner.
“At the heart of entrepreneurship is the dream that innovation and hard work can level the playing field for everyone. This isn’t always true, but it should be. We are proud to partner with Venture For America, because when entrepreneurs have support to bring their passions to life, everyone benefits.” – Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber
UBS has been an integral corporate partner for Venture For America for many years and has focused their philanthropic efforts on directly supporting the organization’s resources to help their Fellows and Alumni launch dynamic new businesses.
“We collectively have the ability to shape the future of entrepreneurship now,” said Tom Naratil, President UBS Americas and Co-President UBS Global Wealth Management. “We’re proud to continue our support for VFA’s unique capabilities and commitment to directly impacting aspiring entrepreneurs, and excited to work together to create 300 new underrepresented founders over the next few years.”Venture For America has worked with more than 800 recent graduates to launch their careers and is currently placing Fellows in startups in 14 cities across the country.”