Black Ambition, founded by multi-awardwinning rapper and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams, and Mosaic Genius are both organizations working toward the promotion of wealth building in communities of color, particularly Black and Latino people. In a collaborative effort, the two organizations announced the Gathering on the Vineyard Prize Competition, which will award Black and Latino business founders on Martha’s Vineyard.
Jermeen Sherman, director of programs at Black Ambition, told The Times that Mosaic Genius has hosted annual events called Gathering on the Vineyard: Closing the Wealth Gap to “really convene … folks who are just building the ecosystem to support entrepreneurs” and collaborating to position business founders to achieve success. Sherman said Black Ambition has been doing national prize competitions to support founders from Black and Latino communities in order to “close the wealth and opportunity gap in America.”
“That’s really important because traditionally, and it’s been pretty consistent, 97 percent of venture [capital] goes to firms that are founded by founders who are not people of color. So, less than 3 percent of that funding is accessible to founders of color. That number declines significantly when you talk about female entrepreneurs,” Sherman said. “We know that when minority businesses do well, particularly in Black and Latinx communities, that really elevates entire communities. So we’re really focused on creating both the space and conditions for Black and Latinx founders to excel and to do so uninterrupted, and to do so in a context where their culture is viewed more as an asset than it is a barrier to access, which is unfortunately typically the case.”
According to the application, the awards will be given to new businesses that have operated for five years or less on Martha’s Vineyard or in Boston, with revenues less than $1 million and have not raised more than $1 million in dilutive capital yet. Entrant businesses must be 51 percent Black- or Latino-owned, and be in the fields of technology, media, and entertainment, healthcare, consumer products and services, or Web 3.0, which CNET describes as a vision for a user-owned “egalitarian internet” with blockchain technology integrated into the system. People who work for or have family members working for Black Ambition or Mosaic Genius will not be considered. Businesses with a “direct or indirect” operating relationship with an already established large-scale corporation, investment fund, or government agency will also not be considered. Additionally, all applicants are required to commit to the “Black Ambition founder’s pledge,” which is a commitment to build, invest, and positively influence their communities and become avenues to generational wealthbuilding for other underrepresented groups.
When asked why founders from Boston were also being considered rather than having a competition separate from Martha’s Vineyard business owners, Sherman listed a few reasons, such as finding “businesses that are scalable” and “casting a wide enough net” to find the applicants that fit their criteria.
“Our goal is really to activate local businesses on the Island, particularly knowing how hard they’ve been hit coming out of COVID,” Sherman said. She also said Black Ambition wanted to be mindful that many of its funding partners from Boston will be present during the event, who may want to make “meaningful relationships” with founders after the event.
Applications are live, and will be open until Tuesday, August 2, at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST). Up to five finalists will be selected for a pitch competition in mid-August, and three award recipients will win a total of $20,000 based on the judges’ and Black Ambition’s decisions. Applications for the competition are available at bit.ly/3o7wkmh.