PledgeLA, GRID110 Seeking Second Cohort of Black and Latinx Startup Founders in LA

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

A cohort from the Grid110 startup bootcamp.
Courtesy of GRID110

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Despite Black- and Latinx-led startups raising record amounts of funding in 2021, the fact remains that the startup scene—and the venture capital industry that funds it— remains overwhelmingly white. Of the $330 billion raised by U.S. startups last year, the amounts received by Black and Latinx founders remained in the low-single digits.

Miki Reynolds encountered that gulf firsthand in 2014, when she found herself unemployed in Los Angeles after the software company she worked for shut down. She recalled struggling to connect with other—mostly white and male—folks in the tech ecosystem. “As a woman in tech, a woman of color, I just felt like I didn't identify with the community.” In 2015, Reynolds founded GRID110—a no-equity, no-cost accelerator program designed to create a space in the industry for people like her.

The early-stage startup accelerator has since helped launch over 200 companies, 72% of which are led by founders of color. They include SÜPRMARKT, Los Angeles-based low-cost organic grocery company; Wordsmyth, a Los-Angeles-based tech-enabled platform for companies to discover and hire Black and diverse writers; and Shop Latinx, an online marketplace.

GRID110 founder Miki Reynolds alongside colleagues. GRID110 founder Miki Reynolds alongside colleagues.Courtesy of GRID110

Now, GRID110 is once again partnering with PledgeLA—a local tech industry initiative sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office—on the Founders Fund, an incubator aiming to increase diversity, racial equity and community engagement in the L.A. tech scene. In order to apply, a startup must be headquartered in L.A. County, have raised no more than $250,000 in funding to date and have at least one of its founders identify as a member of the Black and or Latinx communities.

Applications for the cohort, which will consist of 20 startups, close April 10. The program will last 12 weeks and includes training, support and access to one-on-one advising.

Reynolds said this program is “a direct response to the racial wealth gap—specifically, significant gaps in access to capital that Black and Latinx entrepreneurs face here in Los Angeles.”

Founders Fund alum Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye, of skincare startup SKNMUSE

Founders Fund alum Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye of skincare startup SKNMUSE

Courtesy of Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye

The first Founders Fund cohort in 2021 specifically catered to the South L.A community and received over 200 applications. Reynolds anticipates that this time around, the program will receive twice as many candidates now that it has expanded its reach to wider L.A. County. Like last time, PledgeLA has committed to offering each founder in the program a $25,000 cash grant.

“I had never been in an accelerator where people that looked like me were prioritized,” Founders Fund alum Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye, of skincare startup SKNMUSE, told dot.LA. “And I knew that the barriers that I was facing as a Black immigrant in America were different from other counterparts, and I wanted to express that in a safe place.”

For Reynolds, that’s exactly what the incubator is meant to achieve.

“We feel like it just better reflects the city of Los Angeles and its demographic here, but also the startup ecosystem that we would like to see,” she said. “There’s an opportunity to invest in underrepresented communities and founders, who are becoming the majority-minority here in Los Angeles.”

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Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Image by Joshua Letona

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Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

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