Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is starting a new effort to support Black entrepreneurs by dedicating $20 million of its venture capital funding to Black-founded startups and launching an accelerator.
Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures will dedicate $20 million to investing in companies founded by Black entrepreneurs, the company announced in a news release Wednesday. It will also partner with gener8tor, the nationally ranked startup accelerator based in Milwaukee, to launch the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator.
"Innovative thinking is required to drive breakthrough solutions to close the racial equity gap, and by supporting Black founders through Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures and the new accelerator program in partnership with gener8tor, we can make a difference to close this funding gap," Abim Kolawole, vice president of digital innovation at Northwestern Mutual, said in a news release.
Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures launched with $50 million and subsequently announced an additional $150 million in 2019. It dedicated $20 million of its funding to female-founded startups in 2019.
Company founders who are Black receive just 1% of all venture capital funding in the U.S., according to current estimates.
"At Northwestern Mutual we're dedicated to supporting and promoting diversity not just within our company, but within our communities and the businesses we partner with nationwide," John Grogan, chief product and innovation officer at Northwestern Mutual, said in a news release. "Allocating $20 million is only the beginning – we will continue to invest in and provide opportunities for Black founders and are committed to providing access to capital and resources to help them grow their businesses."
Black-founded startups that are aligned with Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures' strategic areas will be eligible for the funding and accelerator. The fund invests in companies that focus on building for consumers' changing financial preferences, reimagining the client experience, digital health revolution and transformational analytics and technologies.
The Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator powered by gener8tor plans to start its first cohort in early 2021. The 12-week program will run up to two cohorts of five companies a year.