Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator seeking its next cohort

Past NMBFA participants with program mentors. From left are: Kevin Barrow, Mark Labs CEO; Ablorde Ashigbi, 4Degrees CEO; Abim Kolawole, VP, Client Experience Promoting, Referrals Activation and Client Outcomes Optimization at Northwestern Mutual; Craig Schedler, Managing Director at Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures; Fonta Gilliam, Wellthi CEO; Bobola Odebiyi, CrossKudi CEO; and Devyn Mikell, Qualifi CEO.

Last updated on April 25th, 2022 at 09:00 am

The Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator (NMBFA) is seeking its next cohort of Black founders of businesses. Launched last year, the 12-week accelerator is open to Black entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. in the fintech, digital health, insurtech or data analytics industries. These industries were specified by the Northwestern Mutual team as they are areas the company is consistently working in already.

“They (Northwestern Mutual) essentially set forth four industries that they felt as an organization they’re most knowledgeable in and able to assist the founders in as well,” said Precious Drew, director of the accelerator.

The NMBFA is a collaboration between Northwestern Mutual and gener8tor to advance Black tech startups based in the United States. Drew said both organizations wanted to buck the trend of lagging funding provided to Black founders. Ten startups have completed the accelerator so far.

“Really the genesis of the accelerator came to be after the realization of the lack of funding that goes to Black entrepreneurs when we look at the entire industry, with that percentage being about 1.2%,” said Drew.

Participants in the NMBFA are paired with an executive mentor from Northwestern Mutual and receive the opportunity to pitch their business one-on-one to over 70 different potential investors. Founders are also awarded a $100,000 cash investment and the possibility to earn $1 million in deals from vendors including IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Amazon, PayPal and Microsoft. Startups of any size are able to apply so long as they fall into one of the four desired categories.

“We invest at many different levels. We invest in the pre-seed stage all the way up to just about the Series A stage,” Drew said. “We’ve had people on the earlier end who are pre-revenue and on the extreme end of that we’ve also had a company that entered the program and already closed a $10 million Series A and was already generating over $1 million in annual recurring revenue.”

What matters to program leadership is the strength of the team behind a startup, specifically if a company has the right leadership to move the business forward. A startup needs to be based in a strong idea that can be backed by venture capital. Drew said the accelerator also looks for coachability.

“Our goal has been the same from the beginning: be the premiere accelerator for Black entrepreneurs in the country and with that, one of the things that makes our accelerator different from others is the concierge approach,” Drew said.

The accelerator only takes on five startups within a cohort, which allows staff to hone in on each company’s individual needs and create a tailor-made plan.

Some past startups that have completed the accelerator include Tip a ScRxipt, SoLoFunds and 4Degrees. Following participation in the accelerator, Tip a ScRxipt also secured Gateway Capital Partners’ first investment worth $400,000.

Black entrepreneurs interested in applying for the NMBFA can do so online until April 29.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

No posts to display