Black Innovation Fellowship

Empowering the next wave of Black entrepreneurs

Accelerate your dreams.

Underrepresented 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


  • A business dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • At least one full-time founder
  • A driven, coachable, and collaborative leadership team
  • Must have the ability to manage the product directly
    • Have a CTO or in-house technical lead or show a clear path to moving a part time lead onboard full time
  • An MVP that has some form of market validation
    • Startups that are identified as having a marketplace business model must demonstrate a unique value proposition, paying customers and clear defensibility in their application as validation due to the highly competitive nature of marketplaces.
  • 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.


Black Innovation Fellowship Bootcamp

In the past year, we learned that there is a large pool of aspiring Black entrepreneurs who have not yet built out a product but have incredible business ideas. This is why we have just launched a bootcamp program for 20 Black founders in the effort of transitioning these founders to the DMZ full-time programs.


Deadline to Apply: Friday July 3rd at 11:59pm

Inaugural Founding Partner & Program Founder

Isaac Olowolafe Jr.

Founder and General Partner, Dream Maker Ventures

Representing our Founding Partners & Supporters

Leslie J. Anderson

Global Head of Enterprise Technology, Employee Experience, BMO Financial Group

Newton Asare

BIF Co-founding Partner & Venture Partner, Dream Maker Ventures

Paulette Senior

President & CEO, Canadian Women's Foundation

Shavonne Hasfal-Mcintosh

Diversity and Belonging Lead, Shopify

BIF Entrepreneurs-in-Residence

Manu Kabahizi

Board Member, Ulula

Robleh Jama

Senior Product Lead, Shopify

Programs Lead

Gbemi Akande

Program Lead, Accelerator

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

We help startups grow their business. That means when founders want a high-impact and highly-customized tech accelerator program, they come to the DMZ. Ranked as the #1 university-based tech accelerator in the world, the DMZ provides a launchpad for founders to build and scale fast. Bigger and bolder than any other program of its kind, the DMZ has been creating the next gen of game-changing, global businesses since 2010. To date, the DMZ has helped more than 400 startups raise $740+ million in capital and create 4,000+ jobs. With its headquarters in Toronto, Canada, the DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence including offices in New York City and 70 partnerships around the world.

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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