Frequently asked questions.

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From the application process to how you can get involved with BIF, here are the answers to your questions.

What is the Black Innovation Fellowship?

The Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) is a first-of-its-kind partnership in Canada between Ryerson University and a community of founding partners. The BIF will see more startups led by Black entrepreneurs gain access to the strengthening support of DMZ’s award-winning university-based incubator network, gain access to exclusive mentorship opportunities, custom programming, and access to funding. The BIF will also foster an alumni and support network that will drive conversations, actions and new stories around Black entrepreneurs in Canada.

I’m interested. How do I apply?

Applications are open year round for our Sandbox & Validator program. Our Accelerator program application is currently open and closes on August 20th, 2019.

The BIF program team will help interested founders navigate the application process to determine which of our 3 programs is right for them!

Is there a participation fee?

No -- BIF is free for participants and will additionally waive any desk and participation fees associated with participating in one of the DMZ programs. This program is made possible by the leadership and support of a community of Founding Partners, including Shopify and the program’s Inaugural Founding Partner, Isaac Olowolafe Jr. of Dream Maker Ventures.

How long is the BIF program?

The BIF program will last 12 months. Entrepreneurs can anticipate 8-12 hours a month of formal programming.

What support will entrepreneurs in the BIF receive?

Being part of DMZ’s network already provides startups with a wealth of value. This includes work and meeting space in downtown Toronto, competitions and awards that can unlock new partnerships and funding, promotion and marketing opportunities, and the backing of a supportive community of peers, experts and staff.

BIF participants will receive additional benefits and programming, some of which will be tailored to the distinct needs of each cohort. These benefits include:

  • Potential to receive dedicated seed capital for fellows
  • Waived participation fees
  • Mentorship from successful Black entrepreneurs from the tech sector & beyond
  • Coaching and guidance from accomplished professionals and executives
  • Access to the expertise, perspective and capital of Dream Maker Ventures and other seasoned investors with a knowledgeable perspective of the Canadian startup landscape
  • High-value special events and workshops
  • Guidance from a dedicated Program Manager who will serve as an anchor for the cohort and advocate for their interests

What kinds of barriers do Black entrepreneurs face?

Many Black entrepreneurs face multiple barriers across their startup journey. For some communities -- like women, newcomers or individuals from low-income families -- the intersection of these barriers can be multiplied and magnified. The experiences of Black founders in the U.S. and Canada have identified barriers such as:

Access to capital: Access to early-stage funding impacts a startup’s chances of success. The industry norm of raising seed money from friends and family, or from personal savings, is out of reach for many founders, who may also face difficulties when they attempt to raise money from outside investors.

Lack of investor diversity: Studies have shown that a lack of diversity in the VC community has led to the prevalence of biases facing women and racialized founders about their abilities as entrepreneurs, and a lack of understanding of the potential of their startup ideas, particularly if they attempt to solve problems that mostly impact women or diverse consumers. In the end, consumers also miss out because these business ideas are never funded.

Lack of publicly recognized role models or exposure to entrepreneurship: Having visible role models are crucial to seeing our own success as possible, rather than something exceptional or unattainable. Research suggests that exposure to entrepreneurship in your own family or community impacts an individual’s likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur.

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