Techstars Introduces New Pre-seed Pre-Accelerator Fund for Diverse Entrepreneurs

Apr 28, 2022

The Rising Stars Fund to support early-stage underrepresented founders in the U.S.

Techstars, a global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs, has announced the close of Rising Stars, a new pre-seed fund that will invest in underrepresented founders of color in the U.S. Key investors in the new fund include Twitter and Amazon, alongside additional corporate and individual investors.

“Solutions to our world’s largest challenges will be found in the world's vast pool of underinvested founders,” said Neal Sales-Griffin, Techstars Chicago managing director and Rising Stars investment lead. “Through Rising Stars, Techstars will work with promising early-stage undiscovered founders in the U.S. and provide them with the support, network, and access needed to break through and scale, for the benefit of all.” 

Many Techstars applicants are not yet ready for an accelerator, but as a pre-seed fund, Rising Stars will enable the organization to invest in founders at the earliest stages in their entrepreneurial journey and identify future candidates for the company’s 50+ accelerators around the world. The fund will support U.S.-based Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Filipino, Hmong and Vietnamese Asian entrepreneurs through $100K pre-seed investments, access to the Techstars broader network, and early consideration for accelerator participation.

“At Amazon we believe that underrepresented founders should have the same access to capital as anyone else – and we are committed to helping entrepreneurs of all backgrounds pursue their business ideas,” said Zain Gulamali, Amazon Worldwide Corporate Development. “We are excited to be an investor in the Rising Stars Fund and help unlock the potential of a new generation of innovators.”

Today, hundreds of alumni from the Techstars 3,000-company portfolio identify as diverse entrepreneurs, including Jade Kearney, co-founder and CEO of She Matters, a digital health platform designed to support Black women who experience postpartum comorbidities through community, culturally relevant resources and culturally competent mental health care professionals. Kearney is a recent graduate of Techstars Seattle.

“If you’re a founder of color, bootstrapping is the knee-jerk reaction to starting a business because we are told that raising venture capital is next to impossible. But, funding is what makes it possible to focus on critical aspects of building a business, like establishing trust with your customers and hearing their needs in ways that aren’t possible when you are focused on keeping the lights on,” says Kearney. “The Rising Stars fund is addressing these old myths in communities of color and empowering those of us who are beneficiaries to change our culture and challenge the status quo.”

While 2021 showed venture funding for underrepresented startup founders shift in a positive direction, Black entrepreneurs still only received 1.2% of the record $147 billion invested in U.S. startups in the first half of the year. Rising Stars is one of many efforts in Techstars’ long-standing dedication to serving diverse founders who are routinely overlooked in the venture community. The company recently announced the Techstars Advancing Cities Fund which will invest in more than 400 early-stage companies led by diverse entrepreneurs through 37 programs in 9 U.S. cities over the next three years.

Rising Stars investments will be sourced leveraging Techstars’ extensive community presence across the U.S. as well as their accelerator application pipeline where more than 30,000 applications are received per year. Founders who would like to learn more about Rising Stars can indicate their interest here or follow along on Twitter @RisingStars.

About Techstars

The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas — entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 3,000 companies with a combined market cap of more than $172B.