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Arabian Prince, a founding member of the rap group N.W.A., is behind a new Los Angeles incubator aimed at tech founders from underserved communities.
The musician-turned-entrepreneur launched Incub8next on Monday with Art+Logic co-founder Paul Hershenson, health-tech expert Matthew Walk and Aj Kang, a DJ with marketing experience.
The crew calls their project a social impact incubator, and it's looking for entrepreneurs building tech startups from a range of backgrounds, like "the intrepid single mom with a parenting product ready for marketing" or a "preventative health app developer in need of FDA approval," the founders said in a statement.
"There are people who have never gotten the opportunity but have everything else they need to succeed in business," Arabian Prince said in the statement. "With my background, I've conjured things out of thin air to make money. So I know the struggle."
The Compton-born rapper's career in tech has spanned video games and animation. Last June, he unveiled his Covitech project, a cloud-based suite of apps designed to safely usher employees back to work at a time when small-to-medium businesses struggled to get a hold of PPE and testing resources.
It was created by the Incub8next co-founders — before the group built an incubator.
"It became very obvious to everyone that the pandemic was having unequal effects on people," Hershenson told dot.LA. "In particular, people of color in minority communities were taking the brunt of everything. Where people like me were able to sit comfortably at home, carry on and do our work really as if nothing had changed."
Once a COVID-19 vaccine was approved, Hershenson and his team sketched out a more "sustainable" project that could serve communities even after restrictions and stay-at-home orders were lifted.
"This is the reinvention of Covitech for a post-pandemic environment," Hershenson said.
Landing a spot at Incub8next means access to mentorship, fundraising help and marketing support. Individuals and teams will be accepted on a rolling basis and can now submit inquiries.
The program meets weekly by Zoom for three to five weeks.
Hershenson said the incubator will probably take between 5% to 10% stake in each company. The co-founders hope to reach a deal with their first participant by the end of this week.
"We are looking at a new wave of entrepreneurship in the world," Walk said in a press release. "While the 'unicorns' are out there getting press and IPOs, there is a massive opportunity for 'small' businesses to reach revenue of $5-100 million and be wildly successful without ever becoming a household name.
"These are the businesses I want to discover and be a part of."
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Kim Renard Nazel is best known as Arabian Prince, a founding member of the '80s rap group N.W.A. whose raw lyrics on police brutality inspired a generation of West Coast rappers. But the producer and artist, who goes by his stage name, has long been a tech geek passionate about closing the digital divide.
This week, the Compton-bred rapper-turned-entrepreneur launched his latest endeavor, Covitech, a platform intended to get people back to work safely. The cloud-based suite of apps provides a protocol plan for small-to-medium businesses, giving them access to COVID-19 screening, testing resources and often hard-to-procure protective equipment.
Prince was inspired to begin the project months ago when he saw that the federal government wasn't getting needed supplies to cities. And the effort has now coalesced just as the issue of police brutality, the pandemic and longstanding inequities exploded into the national consciousness.
"Because of George Floyd's death and COVID both hitting the black community and the brown community and the inner city, it's important to bring technology and infrastructure to prop them up and keep them from going into a (economic) depression," he said. "This is an invisible killer."
Kim Renard Nazel is best known as Arabian Prince, a founding member of the '90s rap group N.W.A.
As restrictions have lifted, businesses across the country are scrambling to figure out the logistics of bringing people back to offices, factory floors and restaurants. They're often stymied because they don't have easy access to testing, protective equipment or other resources to that keep individuals safe. Putting protocols in place can be expensive and often time-consuming. For smaller businesses with few resources, the task can be daunting.
Covitech is intended to help solve those problems by providing employers a way to screen and inform workers of their status, as well as keep to them on track with local regulations. The effort was created with Art+Logic, a software development team based in Pasadena and Michigan-based Hudson Scientific, a group that brings medical products to market.
The pandemic has ravaged California's economy, hurting the very communities that N.W.A rapped about. Since the outbreak, the state has processed more than 5.6 million unemployment claims. Black and Latino employees make up a large portion of low-wage service workers and have seen higher rates of job loss.
"The inner cities are really taking a big hit," Arabian Prince said. "My passion is really taking care of the inner cities."
Prince been rapping and producing since leaving N.W.A. in 1988. But he also developed another passion for technology and has been working in the industry — in video games, animation and special effects for decades. It's through those contacts that he helped build this coalition.
"People in the trenches aren't getting the protection they need," Prince said.
He's seen that play out during the protests where there are images of police fully suited up with goggles and masks, while he said hospital workers struggled and those who are serving thousands of people at fast food restaurants don't have protection.
"It's upside down," he said.
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