Do you want a future where anyone and everyone can launch and grow a business? That’s the future we’re building every day, one business at a time. The TechTown Startup Fund is going to tackle a huge problem head-on for promising Black innovators: accessing cash to get their ideas off the ground.

If you don’t have a network of friends and family who can invest in your dream, you can be delayed or stopped before you really get going. Black tech founders face unique financial barriers rooted in systemic racism and historic injustices like the racial wealth gap. For example, the average white household has 10 times the wealth of the average Black household.

Chip in what you can for the future we all deserve. For a future in which your family’s net worth doesn’t limit what you can achieve.

56% to Fundraising Goal

Tech Founder Stories

Danielle Smith Parker, Founder and CEO of Detroit Maid

Danielle started Detroit Maid (known as Clean Break outside of metro Detroit) because she could not get the home cleaning services she wanted to come to her house in Detroit. She enrolled in TechTown’s idea-stage accelerator Start Studio to transition her traditional company into an online marketplace for cleaning services.

Friends and family have supported her journey by working for her and utilizing Detroit Maid’s services as she’s put the resources at TechTown to work. An alum of the Tech Incubator, she is currently in STEEP, where she is building a network and preparing for a $1 million fundraising round. But first, she needs to build a functioning online marketplace as proof of concept.

Christina Strong-Regan and James Regan, Co-Founders of Shack Buddy

Spouse-duo Christina and James validated their idea for an algorithm-driven roommate and renter matchmaking marketplace during Start Studio last spring.

Thanks to their work in Start Studio, they now have a solid idea for which there’s a need and a market. Since they are pre-revenue, they lack the funding to hire software developers, so they are trying to build a functioning prototype using a do-it-yourself “no code” application builder.

For tech startups, getting your first-generation product built, whether that is custom software or a physical product, requires money before you can demonstrate that you can return the investment to the bank or backer.

Banks can’t lend under these circumstances, and even the most adventurous gamblers won’t invest. Who will? TechTown’s community!

Donovan Wright, Co-Founder of Guilde

Donovan validated his concept and refined the vision for a marketplace app that solves the headaches that contractors and property owners experience when conducting renovations or repairs.

Donovan raised $20,000 from friends and family after running into technical hurdles with the only source of grant funds available for tech startups to create a minimum viable product. Now that it’s built, Guilde has gained access to opportunities like The Batchery, an incubator founded by angel investors in Berkeley, Calif.

LT Jackson, Bethanne Moore and Leo JB Smith (pictured), Co-Founders of Induiro

This dynamic trio took their pandemic solution through Start Studio last fall. They’ve developed a workplace and retail business application that facilitates contact tracing paired with a temperature-screening device. Being part of the TechTown network has helped them make significant connections.

For example, the New York Stock Exchange with JPMorgan Chase hosted a business bootcamp for Detroit-based startups facing inequitable access to capital. The Induiro co-founders were invited as TechTown alumns and through their participation they secured a small investor and partner for a pilot project.

Networks are not only a source of startup capital but also how entrepreneurs gain access to resources. Your donation to the TechTown Startup Fund is supporting not just the businesses we work with but also network-building efforts like STEEP.

Events

This spring, we’re highlighting the experiences of TechTown’s diverse community of tech founders. See the impact of your support in action!

Friday April 16: Instagram Live Conversation

Navigating Valley of Death: Rewatch a fun and freewheeling conversation between TechTown Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jeff Ponders II and Danielle Smith Parker, founder of Detroit Maid, about Danielle’s experiences in Detroit’s entrepreneurial community, especially as it relates to accessing the funds to grow. Watch now.

Friday April 30: Instagram Live Conversation @ 1 p.m.

Racial Equity and Venture Capital Funding: Join Paul Riser Jr., director of Detroit Urban Solutions, an urban tech initiative powered by TechTown, and Lindsay Robillard, fund development officer, as they explore the reasons why venture capital needs to diversify not just who gets the funding but also who makes the decisions about the funding. Follow TechTown on Instagram to watch.

Friday May 7: Instagram Live Conversation @ 2 p.m.

The “Friends and Family” Round: TechTown alum Donovan Wright of Guilde, will be joined by his brother-in-law, Terence Graham, for a discussion about what it is like to generate startup capital from those closest to you. Follow TechTown on Instagram to watch.

Wednesday May 12: Start Studio Showcase @ 5 p.m.

If you want to learn the first steps to becoming a startup, or you love hearing about the next big thing, this showcase is for you! Join us as the Start Studio teams share their innovative tech-based business ideas. RSVP here.

Friday May 14: Tech SHOP @ 7 p.m.

Join TechTown for a very special tech-themed virtual shopping experience and learn about new technology created by alums. Watch at https://techtowndetroit.org/live/.

Thursday May 20: STEEP Celebration @ 5 p.m.

Congratulate the first cohort of this business incubator that supports Black women entrepreneurs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and beyond, and welcome the next class at the same time! This unique experience is building a community of support for Black women in tech at the same time that it supports business growth, sustainability and capital access. https://techtown.zohobackstage.com/STEEPTheCelebration

Learn more

Race, class, gender and geography all interact in ways that benefit some founders and hinder others as they pursue startup capital. Explore the issue in the graphics, research and articles below. Need help funding your business? Make an appointment with one of TechTown’s business experts here.

Radical Inclusion in Tech  (link)
By Dr. Marlo Rencher

Tech entrepreneurship is a powerful force for addressing societal problems and opportunities. Generally speaking, underrepresented tech entrepreneurs are inadequately recruited, developed and supported. TechTown Detroit has benchmarked some of the best practices for creating inclusive tech entrepreneurship environments in three distinct locations: Atlanta, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Miami, Fla. Our findings indicate that the organizations that support these spaces employ intentional strategies to create inclusive environments.

Building racial equity in tech ecosystems to spur local recovery (link)
By Dell Gines and Rodney Sampson

Systemic inequities in America have created a history of wealth inequality, disproportionately exposed certain communities to the COVID-19 pandemic, and established conditions leading to racial violence and social unrest. To address these issues, communities of color—specifically, Black communities—will need broad-based economic support and policy reforms.

A VC’s Guide to Investing in Black Founders (link)

By James Norman

Right now, Black founders receive roughly 1% of VC funding. One of the reasons for this is that venture capital investors, who are largely white, aren’t good at recognizing and developing Black entrepreneurs. Four main areas of misunderstanding are:

1) different solutions for different problems;

2) different surroundings and resources;

3) styles of communication and cultural expectations; and

4) unconscious bias.

As a result of these missteps, investors are missing out on significant opportunities. The author suggests ways to find and support Black founders

TechTown Startup Fund FAQ

Who is eligible to apply?

  • Black-owned startups that are recent (past 24 months) alums of a tech-based entrepreneurship program at TechTown
  • And have completed capital Access Training Program (launching late May/early June) and have milestone plan for funding approved by Capital Access Committee

How will the funds be distributed?

  • Applicants will identify specific projects they need completed to meet a milestone on their approved plan
  • TechTown will work with companies awarded funds to secure a service provider and pay the contractor
  • Process will be similar to the Business Accelerator Funds

When will application launch?

  • Target date for applications is August 2021