Northwestern Mutual dedicates $20 million to support black entrepreneurs, new startup accelerator


Northwestern Mutual is dedicating $20 million to support black entrepreneurs in Milwaukee and throughout the country, the Milwaukee-based life insurance and financial management company announced today.

The company is launching the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator program in partnership with gener8tor, a nationally ranked Wisconsin-based startup accelerator and venture fund. The accelerator will invest in startups founded by black entrepreneurs through Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, which is Northwestern Mutual’s venture capital arm.

“At Northwestern Mutual we’re dedicated to supporting and promoting diversity not just within our company, but within our communities and the businesses we partner with nationwide,” Northwestern Mutual chief product and innovation officer John Grogan said in a statement. “Allocating $20 million is only the beginning – we will continue to invest in and provide opportunities for Black founders and are committed to providing access to capital and resources to help them grow their businesses.”

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The new accelerator program will focus on the same investment areas as Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, which include “building for consumers’ changing financial preferences, reimagining the client experience, the digital health revolution and transformational analytics and technology,” according to the fund’s website.

More than 80 percent of venture firms do not have a single black investor and just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black, according to BLCK VC, a nonprofit with the goal of doubling representation of black investors by 2024.

“Innovative thinking is required to drive breakthrough solutions to close the racial equity gap, and by supporting Black founders through Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures and the new accelerator program in partnership with gener8tor, we can make a difference to close this funding gap,” Northwestern Mutual digital innovation vice president Abim Kolawole said in a statement.

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The Black Founder Accelerator is a 12-week program that will run up to two cohorts of five companies each year. Participating companies will receive a $100,000 investment, office space within Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Labs and other perks.

The first cohort will begin in 2021.

Future Ventures typically invests up to $5 million in a Series A or B funding round. The fund has invested in 15 companies since it was founded in 2017.

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