Pharrell Williams has announced Black Ambition, a non-profit initiative that aims to provide a bridge to success for Black and Latino entrepreneurs who are launching tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products/services start-up.
Speaking at a press conference, Williams said he was inspired to start the initiative as a means of giving voice to underserved communities. “We need a voice,” he said.”We have the smallest slice of the American pie, in terms of ownership. The Asian dollar stays in this community for about 30 days; our Jewish brothers and sisters, their dollar stays in every community for 20 days. The African-American dollar stays in its community for six hours, because we don’t own much.”
He went on to say: “Because we don’t have enough of the market share our kids end up having issues with disproportionate access to health care disproportionate access to education. And as a culture, we have disproportionate access as it pertains to legislation and representation.” Williams wanted to focus on the ambitions of Black people and Latinos people and help manifest those ambitions.
Willa Seldon, senior advisor for Black Ambition and partner at Bridgespan, also spoke at the conference. “We want to highlight the fact that it’s a huge market opportunity,” he said. “Black and Latinx folks spent $3 trillion in the marketplace. That’s a market that’s worth investing in.”
As part of the launch, Williams announced two prize competitions — the Black Ambition HBCU Prize and the Black Ambition Prize – which culminate in one major national event.
“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,” said Williams. “With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”
The Black Ambition HBCU Prize offers prizes and mentorship for current and former students at HBCUs as they develop seed or early-stage ideas and launch companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services. The grand prize winner will receive up to $250,000 and at least nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes.
The prize will launch with a nationwide call for applications from eligible founder teams. Williams stressed: “Whether it’s a $250,000 Prize, or it’s a $15,000 Prize. If you win something, you are going to get mentorship, the strategic scaffolding, that you’re going to need to make sure that we are you know setting you up for the odds to be in your favor.”