Pharrell launches Black Ambition initiative for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs
Pharrell Williams, Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP, File

To provide a pathway to success for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who are launching tech, design, healthcare and consumer products/services start-ups, entertainer Pharrell Williams announced the nonprofit initiative Black Ambition.

The initiative seeks to make entrepreneurship a more inclusive endeavor. The start-up nonprofit initiative will be led by an advisory team that includes Williams, and will receive support from The Bridgespan Group, a global nonprofit organization that advises mission-driven organizations, nonprofits, philanthropists and impact investors.

In the statement announcing Black Ambition, Williams stated, “Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success. With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”

Funding for Black Ambition has not been an issue. Adidas, Chanel, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation, Tony’s Chocolonely and the Visa Foundation have come through for monetary backing, along with several individuals of means.

Moreover, some companies are showing their support via products they are producing. Mattel will soon be releasing a product created in partnership with Black Ambition. Not to be outdone, Tony’s Chocolonely is making a special Black Ambition chocolate bar. A portion of proceeds from both products will benefit Black Ambition.

As part of the launch of Black Ambition and its goal to level the playing field by supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs, Williams unveiled two competitions and their accompanying prizes.

First, the Black Ambition HBCU Prize will offer prizes and mentorship for current and former students at HBCUs as they develop seed or early-stage ideas and launch companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services. The grand prize winner will receive up to a $250,000 prize and at least nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes. Teams must include at least one current HBCU undergraduate or graduate student (full-time or part-time), one recent alum within two years of graduation, or one former student within two years of attending the institution who is a member of the founding team. This HBCU-affiliated individual must identify as Black/African/African American and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/Latinx.

Second, the Black Ambition Prize will “find, support and seed early-stage companies in tech, design, healthcare and consumer products and services.” To qualify for this prize, ventures must have at least one founder or co-founder that identifies as Black/African/African American and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/Latinx. The grand prize winner will receive up to a $1 million prize and at least nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes.

The two competitions will culminate in July 2021 with the teams competing for these prizes presenting to judges and investors. Entrepreneurs will receive mentorship and feedback as well as access to peer networks and expert connections in addition to the financial awards. Screened applicants will receive access to online resources, information about business resources, and high-level feedback. Semifinalists will also receive cohort-based mentorship. Finalists will receive personal mentorship, opportunities for media exposure, and introductions to venture capitalists, angel investors and accelerator partners.