(Washington, DC) – Today, the Bowser Administration issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on the design of and approach for its Inclusive Innovation Fund, a new program that aims to increase access to capital for District entrepreneurs, particularly for underrepresented entrepreneurs, such as people of color and women. The investment fund, which will be led by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, will be focused on early stage ventures.
“Access to capital is critical to starting and growing businesses in the District, and underrepresented entrepreneurs – including people of color, women, and LGBTQ residents – often face particularly high barriers during the early stages. Our goal with this fund is to break down some of those barriers and get more residents on pathways to the middle class,” said Mayor Bowser.
In November 2016, the District released Pathways to Inclusion, a roadmap for making Washington, DC’s tech and innovation economy the most inclusive in the nation. This report was the first such assessment and revealed the importance of capital to achieving an inclusive innovation economy. A survey of entrepreneurs conducted for the report showed that access to capital was the most frequently cited barrier to inclusiveness for minority entrepreneurs, followed by: implicit bias, access to networks, and access to talent enabling programs. It also revealed that less than half of minority entrepreneurs surveyed had managed to obtain funding for their companies; none received venture capital investment, half received angel investments or philanthropic gifts, and half relied on family and friends, their personal savings, and credit cards.
The Bowser Administration seeks to break down some of these barriers by working with private sector partners to create a locally-based investment fund that supports DC entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on underrepresented entrepreneurs. As outlined in the RFI, the District is willing to provide risk capital to enable an investment professional partner that shares the Administration’s vision for inclusive innovation to build out a program that makes a lasting and substantial improvement to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
To view the RFI, go to dmped.dc.gov. The deadline to submit a response is March 6, 2018.