Who’s new in diversity entrepreneurship support?

In October of 2017, Innovate Inclusion released an Ontario Incubator Diversity Report. The objective was to determine the current state of diversity within Ontario incubators, and to make recommendations to better support underrepresented entrepreneurs. Two years later, we’re taking a look at some new diversity-focused programs that have launched in South-Western Ontario.

(Check out the original Diversity Report Announcement to request a copy of the full report).

Key Findings from 2017

  1. We spoke to 60 entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Indigenous, or LatinX to understand how being underrepresented has affected their business experiences. 89.5% of survey respondents felt they have faced business challenges that are directly related to their ethnicity.
  2. We analyzed four of Ontario’s leading government-funded entrepreneurship incubators: Communitech (Kitchener), DMZ (Toronto), Invest Ottawa (Ottawa), and MaRS (Toronto). There was no representation of African/Caribbean Canadian, Latin Canadian or Indigenous communities at the board level, and very few at the executive level or in mentorship teams.
  3. We also examined what diversity-focused programming was available within these four organizations. Existing programming addressed gender equality, but did not focus on other aspects of underrepresentation such as race.

Through our conversations with underrepresented entrepreneurs, we understand that lack of diversity in mentorship and programming can lead to diminished networking, funding, and other critical opportunities. For example, did you know that Black women startup founders raise $36,000 on average, while the average (mostly white male-led) failed startup raises $1.3 million? (Digital Undivided, The Real Unicorns of Tech; Black Women Founders 2016).

Who’s new in diversity entrepreneurship support?

A number of programs based on improving diversity in entrepreneurship have been launched in the Toronto area since our report was released. Here are a few that we’re highlighting today:

Black Professional in Tech Network – Toronto

The Black Professional in Tech Network (BPTN) provides black technology professionals access to mentorship, training and networking opportunities to support growth and career development. In 2019, the organization engaged thousands of professionals through consistently sold-out networking and speaker events. 

TALENT X – Toronto

An evolution of the Talent Development department at MaRS Discovery District, TALENT X is a non-profit organization that offers general and diversity-focused programming and networking opportunities. It supports entrepreneurs of all levels, from pre-graduate students to senior leaders. 

Black Innovation Fellowship at Ryerson University – Toronto

In partnership with a number of Founding Partners, Ryerson has created the Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) to support Black entrepreneurs in their work to create successful startups. It’s the first fellowship of its kind in Canada, and provides everything from programming and events to mentorship and networking opportunities.

KPDI Ventures – Toronto

Key Partners in Digital Innovation Ventures (KPDI Ventures) is a venture development group and corporate innovation studio for Black entrepreneurs. Working in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, KPDI Ventures provides internships and incubation for young Afro-Canadian technology professionals and entrepreneurs.

We’re encouraged by the increase in organizations providing support to diverse entrepreneurs, but are still waiting to see an overall culture shift in the industry. In the next few years, it’ll be important to revisit the tech entrepreneur landscape to see what measurable improvements have occurred in mentorship, board membership, programming, and more. Change is happening, but there’s more to come!


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