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 having 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.

Our programs.

BOOTCAMP

Our six-week Bootcamp helps early-stage founders validate a business idea/market opportunity, and build a roadmap for implementation.

The Bootcamp gives founders exposure to elements of core DMZ programming and helps speed up startup development to qualify for our core programs.

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CORE PROGRAMS

Our Incubator helps startups with a minimum viable product achieve product-market fit, build a powerful team and develop a winning sales strategy over 8 to 12 months. This program is ideal for Bootcamp graduates.

Our Accelerator helps high-potential startups fine-tune business processes, attract top investors and skyrocket revenue generation in a four-month intensive program.

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Bootcamp



 

The Black Innovation Fellowship Bootcamp is a six-week program designed to support very early-stage Black tech founders around the world. The Bootcamp aims to help founders validate their business ideas and market opportunity, as well as build their first prototype and MVP.

Using a hands-on approach, this program gives founders exposure to the different domains important in building a venture: sales, marketing, operations, technology, finance, leadership and more.

The Bootcamp provides founders with many of the benefits incorporated in DMZ’s core programming such as coaching from EiRs, expert workshops and dedicated support from a DMZ Program Lead.

Upon completing the Bootcamp, startups will have a chance to fast track their application to our core Black Innovation Fellowship Program.

“The Bootcamp gave me a learning path. It provided my startup with a wealth of information around product design and development, product-market positioning, leadership and team building, marketing, legal and more. Additionally, getting to know other founders in my cohort was inspiring and it helped me build a foundational network. I’m looking forward to continuing my growth with the DMZ community. “
- Theo Ossinga, Founder, Ajuma.io

We are now accepting applications for our next Bootcamp! Please see the program timeline, selection criteria and application link for our upcoming cohort below.

Program Timeline

October 13 - 30:   Application Round
November 2 - 13:   Interviews/Diligence
November 23:   Program Starts
December 21:   Winter Break Starts
January 4:   Program Resumes
January 15:   Program Ends

Selection criteria

Applicants for the BIF Bootcamp must:

  • Identify as a Black founder
  • Have a business idea dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • Have completed basic market research to understand the problem/solution
  • Be driven, coachable, and collaborative

Ready to validate your business idea and market opportunity?
Apply by October 30.

APPLY

Core Programs



DMZ INCUBATOR

Helping early-stage startups build upon their initial success to achieve product-market fit.

Our pre-accelerator program supports early-stage tech startups by helping them navigate the trials and tribulations involved in getting a business off the ground.

Startups join with a minimum viable product and some form of market validation, and over the course of 8 to 12 months will receive the hands-on support needed to refine product development, develop a powerful team and build a winning sales strategy.

DMZ ACCELERATOR

Taking high-potential startups to the next level of growth.

Our four-month intensive Accelerator program has a highly competitive selection process and helps the world’s top tech startups achieve hypergrowth.

Leveraging DMZ’s in-house network of mentors and industry experts, Accelerator startups can expect to receive the comprehensive support needed to fine-tune business processes, attract top investors and skyrocket revenue generation.

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

Connections

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

Programming

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

Workspace

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

Accommodations

Access to affordable housing in downtown Toronto

Selection Criteria



Incubator

  • 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

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.

APPLY

Program Lead



Gbemi Akande

Program Lead, Accelerator

BIF Entrepreneurs-in-Residence



Manu Kabahizi

Board Member, Ulula

Robleh Jama

Senior Product Lead, Shopify

Inaugural Founding Partner & Program Founder



Isaac Olowolafe Jr.

Founder and General Partner, Dream Maker Ventures

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.

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

Trailblazer Partners



Changemaker Partners



Visionary Partners



Allies & Advocates



BIF Champions



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