Black Innovation Fellowship

Empowering the next wave of Black entrepreneurs

Accelerate your dreams.

Diverse communities continue to face barriers in accessing lucrative entrepreneurship opportunities created by Canada's burgeoning technology-driven innovation sector. Black entrepreneurs in particular, encounter steep challenges when starting and growing a business, from accessing seed capital to fewer publicly recognized role models.

This is why Ryerson DMZ has joined forces with a community of Founding Partners to develop the Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF). The first in Canada fellowship program will provide startups led by Black entrepreneurs with the strengthening support of a top university-based incubator network, as well as additional programming, mentorship, events, and connections to industry, capital and an alumni network, to support their success and growth.

What You Get

Over the course of the fast-paced program, selected teams will work closely with dedicated, experienced industry experts and mentors in an embedded environment and will have access to:

Growth and digital experts

Hands-on coaching from high-calibre, experienced senior mentors


The chance to meet and network with influential investors, experts and researchers


Exclusive workshops, conferences and deep dive sessions by Canada's leading experts


Dedicated workspace in the heart of downtown Toronto and access to exclusive resources


Access to affordable housing in downtown Toronto

Selection Criteria


  • An innovative business idea that utilizes technology to solve compelling industry problems (Startups that are identified with a marketplace business model must demonstrate a unique value proposition, competitive advantage and clear defensibility)
  • At least one full-time founder dedicated to the business
  • A driven, coachable and collaborative leadership team
  • Established customer validation (understand market size, market trends, and completed detailed customer interviews)
  • An initial version of product mockup (Must have the ability to manage the product directly; e.g. have a full-time CTO or in-house technical lead or show a clear path to bringing one on)
  • An industry-leading solution and the potential to join DMZ’s pre-accelerator program or Ryerson’s Zone Network


  • A business dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • At least one full-time founder
  • A driven, coachable and collaborative leadership team
  • A full-time CTO or in-house technical lead
  • A product in market with paying customers
  • The potential to grow and scale sufficiently to reach the eligibility criteria for our growth accelerator


  • A startup dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • At least one FTE dedicated to sales and revenue development
  • A driven, coachable and collaborative leadership team
  • A full-time CTO or in-house technical lead
  • A minimum of $20K in monthly revenue through an existing customer network
  • Be in market and demonstrate steady revenue for at least four consecutive months
  • An established product-market fit and at least one client that we can verify
  • Able to relocate to the DMZ’s Toronto office for the duration of the program

*Gender equity will be a key piece in our selection process for all companies accepted to the Black Innovation Fellowship

Ready to accelerate your dreams?
Apply Now.


Inaugural Founding Partner & Program Founder

Isaac Olowolafe Jr.

General Partner, Dream Maker Ventures

Program Staff

Osman Hamid

Program Manager

Representing our Founding Partners & Supporters

Claudette McGowan

Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Technology Employee Experience, BMO

Newton Asare

Managing Director, Dream Maker Ventures

Paulette Senior

President & CEO, Canadian Women's Foundation

Shavonne Hasfal-Mcintosh

Diversity and Belonging Lead, Shopify

Founding Partners & Supporters

The Black Innovation Fellowship is made possible through the support and leadership of our Founding Partners & Supporters.

Inaugural Founding Partner

Dream Maker Ventures (DMV) is the investment arm of Dream Maker Corp. (DMC), a Toronto-based vertically integrated asset management firm founded in 2003. With divisions in real estate, development, property management, and insurance, DMC has a total of half a billion AUM. The DMV Diversity Fund is an early-stage fund that primarily invests in under-represented, diverse founders such as racial minorities, women, persons with disabilities and indigenous entrepreneurs across North America.

Founding Partner

Shopify is the leading multi-channel commerce platform. Merchants use Shopify to design, set up, and manage their stores across multiple sales channels, including mobile, web, social media, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar locations, and pop-up shops. The platform also provides merchants with a powerful back-office and a single view of their business, from payments to shipping. The Shopify platform was engineered for reliability and scale, making enterprise-level technology available to businesses of all sizes. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify currently powers over 800,000 businesses in approximately 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Unilever, Kylie Cosmetics, Allbirds, MVMT, and many more.

Founding Partner

Founding Partner Serving customers for 200 years and counting, BMO is a highly diversified financial services provider – the 8th largest bank, by assets, in North America. With total assets of $807 billion as of January 31, 2019, and a team of diverse and highly engaged employees, BMO provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, BMO Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.

Program Champion

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a national leader in the movement for gender equality in Canada. Through funding, research, advocacy, and knowledge sharing, the Foundation works to achieve systemic change that includes all women. By supporting community programs, the Foundation empowers women and girls to move themselves out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. Launched in 1991 to address a critical need for philanthropy focused on women, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is one of the largest women’s foundations in the world. With the support of donors, the Foundation has raised more than $90 million and funded over 1,900 programs across the country. These programs focus on addressing the root causes of the most critical issues, and helping women and girls who face the greatest barriers. To learn more, visit

The DMZ is a world-leading tech accelerator that helps high-potential startups grow and scale to world-class businesses. We help high-potential startups grow and scale their companies by connecting them with a network of customers, capital, industry mentors as well as entrepreneurs and influencers. We’re located in the heart of downtown Toronto and support more than 60 tech startups in 40,000 square feet of innovative space. Since 2010, we’ve helped hundreds of startups raise more than $625.6 million and foster over 3,800 jobs.

Ryerson University is Canada’s leading comprehensive innovation university and home to over 45,000 students. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled over the past 6 years. More than 150 centres, institutes and labs are dedicated to research across disciplines and our 8 priority research themes: Digital Media & Technology, Energy & Sustainability, Health & Well Being, Technological & Industrial Innovation, City Building & Social Justice, Design, Culture & Creative Industries, Management, Entrepreneurship & Competitiveness, and Learning & Teaching for the New Economy.

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