Doing More Together: Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation join forces to support underrepresented entrepreneurs

When Techstars launched an accelerator with Western Union to drive innovation for the next generation of financial services solutions and payment technology, we already knew that Techstars and Western Union had a lot in common. We both love innovation and finding new solutions. We believe that startups and large corporations can learn and work together to the benefit of both—and to the benefit of everyone’s customers. Most importantly we both have a commitment to #GiveFirst and know that business, done right, can make the world a better place. 

It was only natural that the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation would also find overlap in their missions.

Two Missions, One Goal

The mission of the Techstars Foundation is to support and develop underrepresented entrepreneurs in order to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic global. The mission of the Western Union Foundation is to connect underserved populations to the global economy through demand-driven skills training and workforce enablement programs. The alignment between these missions showed us that both of our organizations have strong, purpose-driven cultures and that we both want to create an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem worldwide. 

“Give First is a core value for all of us at Techstars—a way for us to continually improve the world around us,” said David Cohen, Techstars founder and co-CEO. “We believe that the tech industry, through cultural evolution, can fundamentally shift corporate and individual philanthropy. It’s why we are so excited about this opportunity to do a co-grant with one of our accelerator partner foundations. Together we can inspire and create a larger impact.” 

Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director of the Western Union Foundation, agrees. “We are thrilled to partner with Techstars to grow and inspire inclusive entrepreneurship around the world. By bringing together our resources and our networks, we can create a meaningful impact on communities around the world.”

$100,000 Grant + Two Worldwide Networks

Working together, the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation have increased our impact on underserved communities. 

We are excited to announce that the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation will be joining forces to help grow two fantastic non-profit organizations—the Watson Institute and MITD-Lab—through two $50,000 monetary grants and support provided by the Techstars and Western Union networks. 

We’ve done deep research into these two organizations, and we believe that they will have a huge impact on the participants in their programs. We are also excited to see how much more we can do when our two foundations work together. This shouldn’t be a surprise—as the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, Techstars is built on the power of networks. So here we are, making connections, strengthening networks, and seeing—yet again—how much more we can do, together. 

These are our joint grant recipients:

Watson Institute

Watson Institute is a revolutionary new model of higher education for next-generation innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Watson Institute supports diverse, next-generation, impact-focused entrepreneurs so they can pioneer their education, trailblaze lives as innovators, and contribute to solving the toughest challenges facing the world.

In addition to running their Semester Incubator program in Boulder, Colorado and powering Lynn University’s Bachelor of Science in Social Entrepreneurship in South Florida, Watson Institute runs two-day, intensive, entrepreneurship skills training programs called ‘Basecamps’ for 18- to 25-year-old, diverse, impact-focused entrepreneurs. Through our joint partnership, Watson Institute will run Basecamps in Boulder, CO and Mexico City, key locations where both Western Union and Techstars have a strong presence to offer mentorship and support. 

These Basecamps will include training, venture development, mentorship, and a demo night competition. Participants will participate in this two-day intensive program and receive long-term support from Watson Institute’s online network and mentorship sessions. 

MIT D-Lab

MIT D-Lab works with people around the world to develop and advance collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges. This project will be funded by the Western Union Foundation and Techstars Foundation, along with UNHCR. The goal of this program is to help refugee women find long-term durable solutions through skill-building and support to start small businesses.

MIT D-Lab will work with Faros, a local Greek NGO, to provide hands-on, experiential learning in design, innovation, and entrepreneurship to refugee women in Greece, equipping them with technical and soft skills to establish their own businesses while building their confidence, agency, and ability to solve problems.

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Read the press release here.

About Western Union Foundation

The Western Union Foundation believes that education is one of the surest pathways to economic opportunity. Through collaborations with NGOs around the world, the Foundation has embarked on a mission to connect 50,000 migrants, refugees, women and youth to the global economy through demand-driven skills training and workforce enablement programs by 2020. The Foundation also offers a global scholarship program that helps put a post-secondary education in reach for in-need students studying in the STEM fields and business. To date, more than $120 million has been given to fund projects in 137 countries across the globe, including disaster relief for communities in crisis. The Western Union Foundation is a separate charitable corporation that is tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code, and receives support from The Western Union Company, its employees, agents and business partners. Contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible for US income tax purposes. To learn more, visit www.foundation.westernunion.com or follow us on Twitter @TheWUFoundation.

About Techstars Foundation

The Techstars Foundation’s mission is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing non-profit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network. Created in 2015, Techstars Foundation fosters an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, LGBTQ or ability. The Techstars Foundation vision is to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic global change through empowering underrepresented communities and entrepreneurs.The Techstars Foundation funds 501(c)(3) or in-country equivalent organizations with educational programs that are aligned with the foundation’s mission. The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County








Techstars partners with Create Labs to bring inclusive product design to Techstars accelerator programs

Techstars and Create Labs have partnered to introduce Techstars IncludesProduct Design. Techstars is committed to having a meta-impact on diversity in the tech space by encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to build inclusive companies from the very start, because we know diverse teams perform better and we believe inclusive companies will create a better future.

The Techstars – Create Labs Collaboration gives our startup founders access to a highly diverse pool of potential customers with whom they can do focus groups, beta testing, and customer discovery, ensuring that the tech they create is optimized for the actual users. Inclusive product design is essential for companies, but it can be difficult for startups to easily get access to a wide variety of users.

Why is inclusive product design so important? Kodak’s “Shirley” cards are a now-notorious example of what happens when companies don’t pay attention to inclusive product design. Shirley cards date from the mid-1950s, and Kodak created them for photo labs to use to calibrate color and light in the printing process so that people would come out looking good in photographs. They’re pictures of models, but in the early days, all of the models were white, and therefore they failed to work well as color and light checks for pictures of people with darker skin. Inclusive product design—working with actual users from different populations—helps companies not make errors like this, which cause their products to fail for some of their users. 

The Inclusive Product Design program has the added benefit of introducing the next generation of diverse founders to the entrepreneurial process. It is designed to support underserved communities through hands-on, real-world entrepreneurial experiences. Participants will be given the opportunity to learn key business skills from startup founders through direct involvement in product design, shadowing startup teams, reviewing investor pitches, and user-testing early product demos. 

The program will help to increase diversity and inclusion in the Techstars Network, as well as integrating inclusive product design into the Techstars accelerator programs. 

“We believe the opportunity gap is a global problem, so no matter what city, state, or country the Techstars program is in, we will find a local underserved community to tap into that can benefit from learning these new tech and entrepreneurship skills,” says Create Labs co-founder Abran Maldonado.

Techstars is currently running 45 accelerators across 12 countries annually. The Techstars Includes – Product Design program will begin with the six accelerators located in London, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York, with plans to run year-round through all accelerators.

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About Create Labs

Create Labs is a social venture that taps into the heart of low-income, at-risk communities across the country to provide underserved populations with access to cutting-edge technology, skills training, mentorship and career opportunities in tech, media and other innovative industries. Current clients include Samsung, Esri, the NYC Mayor’s office of the CTO, Brookdale College, SBDC, and others.

About Techstars

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,500 companies with a market cap of $15 Billion. www.techstars.com








Announcing the 2019 Techstars Foundation Grant Recipients

Techstars is committed to being an action-driven leader in creating an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. One important way we do this is through the Techstars Foundation. 

The Techstars Foundation’s mission is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing nonprofit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network. We foster an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem that embraces aspiring underrepresented entrepreneurs around the world of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, ages, physical abilities, and neurodiversity. 

Applications for our grants opened in March 2019, and we received 95 qualified applications from extraordinary organizations with powerful missions and goals. The organizations we selected to receive grants are both aligned with our mission and profoundly innovative. They are driven by the needs of the communities they serve and have a measurable positive impact on those communities. We see the potential for their education programs to create meaningful change in the lives of the individuals who participate. 

Techstars Foundation 2019 Grant Recipients

The Techstars Foundation has committed $170,000 in grants to support the following organizations and the educational programs they have created:

Re:Coded

Founded in 2017, Re:Coded seeks to unlock opportunities for youth in the Middle East and North Africa by preparing them for successful careers in the region’s rapidly growing technology sector as software developers, entrepreneurs, and tech leaders. They recruit, train, and employ conflict-affected and vulnerable youth to work as software developers through an intensive five-month coding boot camp and entrepreneurship training program. Re:Coded also runs a digital agency, Re:Coded Labs, staffed by graduates from its programs. Techstars Foundation will be supporting a Re-coded accelerator program for aspiring refugee entrepreneurs in Turkey, giving them the mindset, skills, network of investors and mentors to launch their own scalable tech startups.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve worked with dozens of refugees in Turkey who have tech business ideas but struggle to get their dream off the ground. Now, Re:Coded is delighted to work with Techstars to bring refugee-led startups to life.” – Marcello Bonatto (Co-founder of Re-Coded)

Digital Citizen Fund

The Digital Citizen Fund helps girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology and obtain the necessary skills to succeed in today’s expanding global market. They train women to become successful entrepreneurs in the digital world. With the grant from the Techstars Foundation, Digital Citizen Fund will train 300 women and girls in Afghanistan in business and high-tech (robotics, coding, etc.) to prepare them for the future.

“We cannot thank the Techstars Foundation enough for your grant. We really appreciate your support. The generous donation will empower Afghan women to be financial contributors in their families and continue to be influential forces to their communities   ” – Roya Mahboob (CEO and President of Digital Citizen Fund)

HBCUvc

HBCUvc’s mission is to foster the development of inclusive innovation economies. They accomplish this by increasing the number of Black and Latinx venture capital leaders in communities where entrepreneurs face barriers in accessing investment capital. By increasing the number of Black and Latinx decision-makers in venture capital, HBCUvc can fund more entrepreneurs of color, ultimately creating jobs and wealth opportunities for communities of color.

“We’re excited to be selected for this grant. Venture capital is very much a relationship-driven business. The intention of this course is two-fold. In addition to supporting and expanding upon entrepreneurship education at HBCUs, we get to build and expand new social networks inclusive of HBCUs by bringing investors directly to campus.” – Hadiyah Mujhid (Co-founder of HBCUvc)

Centro Community Partners

Centro Community Partners fosters socioeconomic change by providing business advisory services and leadership programs to rising yet underserved entrepreneurs who want to launch or grow their businesses and create jobs in their communities. Their mission is to build thriving communities by providing low-income, minority, and women entrepreneurs with training, one-on-one business advising, mentorship, and access to capital. Centro received funding from Techstars to support its entrepreneurship training and financial literacy programs, as well as to support the development of its mobile app platform, to empower entrepreneurs. 

“Centro is honored to have been awarded and recognized by the Techstars Foundation! We are excited to partner with Techstars and be a part of an innovative group of changemakers with an extensive network, to help us scale and reach aspiring entrepreneurs globally. We are inspired and look forward to our journey with Techstars to create scalable solutions that promote inclusive microenterprise development ecosystems.” – Arturo A. Noriega (Founder and CEO)

Capital, Community, & Mentorship

Each of these organizations is providing underrepresented groups with access to capital, community, mentorship, or a combination of these essential elements for successful entrepreneurship. A great deal of research has found that these components increase the likelihood of success of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, according to a Kauffman Foundation Compilation: Research on Race and Entrepreneurship.

By supporting these groups, as well as our 15 past grantees, we are continuing to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic change worldwide. 

The Techstars Foundation helps to amplify and support the great work of the nonprofit organizations we support. In 2019, we have made a commitment to give grants to these organizations,  give our time as an organization and provide access to the Techstars Network.

Want to help us develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs? Donate to the Techstars Foundation now! 

The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County








Techstars Foundation Accepting 2019 Grant Applications

Techstars is always working to be a leader in inclusive entrepreneurship by improving opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities throughout our global ecosystem. One important way we do this is through the Techstars Foundation.

The Techstars Foundation’s mission is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing nonprofit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network. We are dedicated to fostering an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, gender identity, LGBTQ, race, ethnicity, age, or ability.

Research has shown diverse teams are more productive, more innovative, and create better returns—yet there are few entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. If the number of underrepresented entrepreneurs declines or remains low, we risk losing productivity, innovation, and lower the potential for business returns, with adverse impacts on the global economy and the development of diverse senior leaders. Moreover, if these groups become more disenfranchised, this could lead to further disparities between gender, race, and class.

Techstars created the Techstars Foundation in 2015 to meet these challenges. The Techstars Foundation has supported 15 nonprofit organizations and hundreds of underrepresented entrepreneurs. The Techstars Foundation vision is to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic change worldwide.

Through our network of thousands of companies and startup programs worldwide, Techstars has a massive opportunity to alter the trajectory of entrepreneurship on a global basis as a catalyst in the growth and scale of nonprofits that are addressing these crucial challenges.

The Techstars Foundation helps to amplify and support the great work of the nonprofit organizations we support. We encourage you to be a part of our story by applying for a grant or making a donation. The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County.

Grant Guidelines:

The Techstars Foundation funds 501(c)(3) organizations with educational programs aligned with our mission of supporting and developing underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Our support ranges from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the established organization’s budget.

Learn more about our grant criteria—and apply! The deadline for the next round of grant requests is April 8, 2019.

Questions? Email us today.

Want to help us develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs? Donate now.