Morgan Stanley has announced 11 startups for its fifth cohort of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, including seven companies run by Black founders.
The Lab is an accelerator program for technology and technology-enabled startups in the post-seed to Series B funding rounds.
Now in its fifth year with 43 participating companies, the program targets startups with a multicultural or woman founder, co‐founder, CTO, or other C-suite member developing innovative solutions across sectors.
“Our survey found that during 2020, progress was made in venture capitalists’ attitudes and actions regarding the importance of investing in women and multicultural entrepreneurs, but a lot more needs to be done to close the funding gap for this group,” stated Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley and Head of the Multicultural Client Strategy Group.
“The goal of the Multicultural Innovation Lab is to provide diverse founders with much-needed access to investors—along with the tools, resources, and connections they need to grow and thrive—in order to transform the investing landscape.”
Simultaneously, Morgan Stanley reported it is expanding the Lab this year by adding a second summer cohort. The firm plans to keep leveraging its global reach, content, and connections to hasten the growth of these companies and address the funding gap for multicultural and women-led startups.
The 2021 winter cohort was selected from more than 700 applicants globally. Seven of the newest companies have Black founders. They include ABF Creative, Abode, Fashion Bomb Daily Shop, Kanarys, Second Keys, Lillii RNB, and Zirtue. The remaining founders in the cohort are women or from other racial groups. The companies are in sectors like fintech, edtech, e-commerce, social networking, medtech, retail tech, and enterprise software.
Alice Vilma, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, told Black Enterprise by email why the imitative is important. She says Morgan Stanley is committed to supporting women and multicultural entrepreneurs by addressing the funding gap they still face in today’s economy.
“Investors are missing an opportunity to prioritize strategies that diversify their portfolios, so I am pleased we are able to expand our reach to support additional founders who are not receiving adequate funding for their companies,” she says.
“We work hard to help identify, develop and execute commercial opportunities in the multicultural business segment with the mission of increasing access to capital for women and multicultural entrepreneurs. By highlighting these great companies with women and multicultural founders through the MCIL, we are, in effect, widening the lens and allowing investors to see a broader range of companies they can invest in.”
She also reflected on enlarging the program. “We are thrilled to be expanding our Lab, increasing the amount of talented, diverse entrepreneurs that we will support on their journey to success.”
The Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) is an intensive five-month accelerator geared to help further develop and scale startup. Morgan Stanley reports it launched MCIL in 2017 to address inequities in funding of multicultural and women-led startups, which its research shows equals over $4 trillion in unrealized returns.