September 29th, 2020
By Barry Givens, Managing Director of Cox Social Impact Accelerator Powered by Techstars
On August 22, 2019 I made the announcement that I would be joining Techstars as the managing director for the Cox Social Impact Program. I originally developed our social impact strategy to source companies making a positive impact on underserved communities, underrepresented people and environmental sustainability.
What I didn’t know at the time was that we would be plagued by the worst health crisis of our generation, and that it would turn into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What I DID know is that when America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. So, it was not surprising that as this pandemic and economic downturn ravaged our entire country, it disproportionately affected communities of color. This moment of vulnerability was then met with the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery and many others by the hands of police brutality.
For decades our country has been plagued by inequality, systemic racism and social injustice that has disproportionately affected segments of our population. But the events of this year, in particular, have put these issues on full display for the world to see, and we have been forced to face these ugly realities head on.
Like many others I have struggled to determine how one person, one group, or one company can have as much of an impact as possible to rectify the wrongs and build a better future. As managing director of the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator Powered by Techstars, I believe our 2021 program can be a strategic platform to catalyze lasting change.
So today, I am excited to announce that for our 2021 class, we have decided to invest in founders whose for-profit companies are targeting the following social justice and systemic racism issues:
Improving voter access and rights
Criminal justice accountability and reform
Healthcare quality and access
Education quality and access
For the past 70 years, the scale and growth of technology and innovation have played a huge role in solving some of the world's biggest problems. Sadly, these important systemic issues in our country have been largely ignored. While this has persisted far too long, this is our moment and this program is our platform to strategically mobilize our resources and networks. With the shift and “awakening” in our country, more corporations, cities, states and individual Americans have placed their focus on solving these issues. There has never been a better time in our history to build great businesses focused on tackling our oldest problems. So, that's what we are going to do.
In January 2021, through the Cox Social Impact Accelerator Powered by Techstars, we will invest in 10 companies, give them access to the networks and resources they need to be successful, and help them gain the visibility they deserve, so that they can make the impact the country needs. We have the opportunity to spark real and lasting change, and we hope that others see this as a beckoning call to do the same.
If you are building something that you believe fits this focus or if you know an entrepreneur that is, please apply here by October 18.
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