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Introducing the So Ambitious HBCU Tour

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The So Ambitious HBCU Tour Continues to Bring Student Entrepreneurs New Opportunities by Expanding to Five Additional Historically Black Colleges & Universities

The Tour is backed by funding support from adidas, JOOPITER, Black Ambition, Techstars, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Black Ambition, Techstars, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) are partnering to bring an immersive 3-day entrepreneurial experience to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) this spring. The So Ambitious HBCU Tour is designed to create new pathways and opportunities for wealth creation for student entrepreneurs through a multi-city tour from February through April 2023. Students can submit their applications to participate in the Tour here.

This inaugural partnership leverages the expertise of each partner to curate a practical startup experience for participants. The tour series is built upon TMCF Innovation & Entrepreneurship portfolio of workshops for students at the ideation stage, Techstars’ robust portfolio of curriculum for participants looking to scale existing ventures, and enhanced by Black Ambition’s network of entrepreneurs and prize awards.

As part of this initiative, student entrepreneurs will get a chance to brainstorm ideas, learn to validate business concepts, and transform them into real companies. Mentors, investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs will offer support throughout the process, with a shared commitment to closing the wealth and opportunity gap by investing in early-stage Black and Brown entrepreneurs.

Black Ambition is a key partner in the HBCU tour initiative, working to introduce student entrepreneurs to the world of business and venture capital by providing them tools and resources to fuel their businesses. In return, students are encouraged to apply for the 2023 HBCU Black Ambition Prize and win up to $200k, applications are now open through May 8, 2023. As an organization that is committed to advancing Black and Hispanic entrepreneurship, Black Ambition brings its expertise, networks, and resources to the table to support HBCU students to ideate, validate, and launch their own businesses. By joining forces with Techstars and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Black Ambition is working to bridge the wealth and opportunity gap for Black entrepreneurs and foster a new generation of innovators.

“It is an honor to launch the So Ambitious HBCU tour and provide our support to the next generation of Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. At Black Ambition, we believe that students are the future of entrepreneurship, and we are committed to providing them with the resources, mentorship, and opportunities they need to thrive,” said Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition. “Our founder, Pharrell Williams, believes HBCUs are the most fertile ground for entrepreneurship and innovation. He recognizes that HBCUs have played a vital role in shaping future leaders and serve as a safe haven for Black students seeking higher education for over a century.”

Techstars, is another key partner in the So Ambitious HBCU Tour, is a global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs has run similar Startup Weekends and Founder Catalyst programming in over 190 communities globally and looks forward to the participants in this event joining this new global, entrepreneurial family. In return, students are encouraged to apply to Techstars Accelerator programs in 50 cities worldwide including those focused on targeting Black and underrepresented founders. By joining forces with Black Ambition and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Techstars is fulfilling its mantra that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and looking to close these gaps and enable generational wealth.

“There is nothing like the energy that young, ambitious entrepreneurs bring to events like the So Ambitious HBCU Tour,” said Monica Wheat, Managing Director of Techstars Detroit powered by JP Morgan Accelerator. “You can see it in their eyes particularly when they hear from judges that they are as good as the participants we see in our accelerators.”

Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is another key partner in the So Ambitious HBCU Tour. As the largest organization that represents HBCUs and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), TMCF brings its extensive network and resources to the table to help HBCU students access the tools and knowledge they need to succeed in the business world. With a focus on innovation, leadership development, and entrepreneurship, TMCF is dedicated to preparing the next generation of HBCU entrepreneurs to succeed and thrive in today’s competitive market. By collaborating with Techstars and Black Ambition, TMCF is helping to create new pathways and opportunities for wealth creation for HBCU students and entrepreneurs, and to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“The So Ambitious HBCU Tour is one of our gateways to success for student entrepreneurs,” said Tamaria Kai Perry, Vice President of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “We’ve created a series of interactive events and workshops to fully equip students with the necessary tools and resources they need to turn their dreams into reality. We don’t want students to miss this opportunity to unlock their full potential and create a start up business that they’re truly proud of.”

The So Ambitious HBCU tour includes the framework for getting a startup off the ground, with local business owners and leaders mentoring the teams throughout the weekend. The final pitch competitions will be held on the last afternoon with winners receiving cash awards and other resources provided by sponsors. Students can participate for free and a few stops will be open to non-HBCU affiliated entrepreneurs as well. Educational sessions include developing effective problem statements, understanding your customer and market, branding, pitching and building an investor timeline.

Shemaiah Mbetwa, the grand prize winner at the kick off tour stop in Birmingham, AL, is an electrical engineering student at Alabama A&M University. She said participating in the event helped with her personal and professional development. Her team is working to design VR glasses for the visually impaired.

“Competitions like this have really helped grow my confidence as a speaker and my belief in myself with regard to entrepreneurship and professionalism,” said Mbetwa. “I feel empowered to go into the future and I’m grateful for that.”

The next stop of the So Ambitious HBCU Tour is focused on the Atlanta University Center and is being held at Atlanta Tech Village (April 21-23, 2023), powered by JOOPITER. This stop is open to non-HBCU affiliated entrepreneurs and will feature Lena Waithe as the keynote speaker, a private luncheon, and two $15k pitch competitions – one for idea stage participants and one for growth stage participants.

The So Ambitious HBCU Tour is a multifaceted initiative that aims to connect HBCUs with a network of allies and resources specifically designed for Black student entrepreneurs. This includes access to incubator and accelerator programs, business pitch competitions, boot camps, capital, mentorship, and more. The immersive experience provides students with an invaluable opportunity to meet and interact with leaders in the startup and venture capital ecosystem. Recent stops have included Grambling State University and Howard University. The tour will continue in Fall 2023 with additional stops at Texas A&M, Norfolk State University, Florida A&M, Morgan State, and Atlanta University Center. Winners at each stop will receive cash grants of up to $15,000, additional support for their businesses, and a spot in the HBCU Founders’ Initiative Lookbook. In addition, they will gain access to the global Techstars Mentor Network, providing them with valuable connections and insights to help take their businesses to the next level. Learn more and apply for the So Ambitious HBCU Tour here.

About Black Ambition

Black Ambition empowers Black and Hispanic innovators and communities to excel uninterrupted. Founded by Pharrell Williams in 2020, Black, Hispanic, and HBCU-affiliated ventures in consumer products and services, media and entertainment, healthcare, technology, and Web 3.0 are eligible to win up to $1M. To date, Black Ambition has trained approximately 500 founders and awarded nearly $6M in growth capital to 65 founders. Black Ambition’s endeavors have been recognized by Forbes, Essence, Complex, and many more for driving meaningful change. It also was the winner of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas award for Impact Investing and named one of Fast Company’s 2022 Most Innovative Companies.

About Techstars

The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas—entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 3,300 companies with a combined market cap of more than $96 billion.

About Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Established in 1987, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is the only national organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. With a mission to ensure student success by promoting educational excellence and preparing the next generation of workforce talent through leadership development, TMCF is ambitiously focused on changing the face of leadership in business and beyond by amplifying the ambitions of those that society may overlook or underestimate. As part of this effort, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Division (I&E) is focused on identifying, positioning, and preparing the next generation of global innovators to create and drive technology solutions that will change the world.


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