Pharrell Williams Launches Black Ambition Incubator

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Pharrell Williams Launches Black Ambition Incubator

Rapper and producer Pharrell Williams released "Entrepreneur" with Jay-Z earlier this summer, a song that became an anthem for Black ambition. Now, Williams is launching an incubator to put money behind his message.

Called Black Ambition, the nonprofit aims to invest in Black and Latino startup founders, and it's beginning by creating two prize competitions set to close in July 2021. The effort is backed by Adidas, Chanel and philanthropic organizations including The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Silicon Valley startup investor Ron Conway and Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti also contributed.


The first competition will award up to $250,000 to current students or recent alumni from a historically Black college developing or in the seed stage of a company. Smaller prizes will be awarded to at least nine additional teams.

The second competition, called the Black Ambition Prize, will give $1 million in seed money to an early-stage company focused on tech, design, healthcare or consumer products and services. Another nine teams will get smaller prizes. Finalists will be connected with and mentored by a network venture capitalists and angel investors.

"Because we don't have enough of the market share, our kids end up having issues with disproportionate access to healthcare, disproportionate access to education and as a culture, we have disproportionate access as it pertains to legislation and representation," Williams said in a video announcing the news.

Williams was inspired to pool talent from historically Black colleges and universities and build a new pipeline of investment and resources to young people.

"We want to lift our HBCUs. They lift so many of us. They deserve to be in lights," Williams said. "We think it's high time that we own more companies.

In August, Williams published a piece in Time Magazine that accompanied a cover spread on "The New American Revolution." It coincided with his release of "Entrepreneur," the song and music video he produced with Jay-Z as a tribute to Black founders across the nation.

"Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success," Williams said in a statement.

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