Nebie won’t be the first or the last black entrepreneur to travel to the tech mecca to advance her venture. In fact, eight black-owned startups traveled to the Valley this summer for a similar, though less permanent, experience through a nine-week program called the NewMe (New Media Entrepreneurship) Accelerator. As members of the program, these innovators are part of an incubator that provides instruction, technical expertise, and financial assistance—building blocks necessary to propel a rough idea to a viable venture.
Programs such as NewMe will drive the type of transformative industrial innovation that will lift American enterprise to “out-innovate … and out-build the rest of the world,” as stated by President Barack Obama. Capital is the lifeblood of innovation, an elusive commodity for African American startups. The number of African Americans launching tech firms nationwide is dismal: Less than 1% of venture capital-backed companies were black-owned in Q1 and Q2 of 2010, according to a survey conducted by CB Insights, which tracks venture capital, angel, government, and private equity-backed private companies.
There have been recent attempts to level the playing field though. Earlier this year, the Small Business Administration committed $2 billion as a match to private sector investments for high-growth ventures over the next half decade. Of that, $1 billion will go to funds that invest growth capital in companies located in underserved communities. And the Obama administration introduced Startup America Partnership, an independent nonprofit to work with corporations and foundations to further develop high-growth firms. Moreover, some private corporations have initiated financing programs of their own. For example, as a result of its merger with NBC Universal, cable giant Comcast pledged to invest $20 million to expand such opportunities for minority entrepreneurs.
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