Morgan Stanley announced the sixth cohort of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator program for technology and technology-enabled startups in the post‐seed to Series B funding rounds. The program, now in its fifth year and with 51 total participating companies to date, targets startups with a multicultural or woman founder, co‐founder, CTO or other C-suite member that is developing innovative solutions across sectors. Through the Lab, Morgan Stanley makes investments in these early stage, high-growth companies and will support each founder’s growth and development through its ecosystem of internal and external partners.
“Welcoming another cohort to our growing portfolio of companies is another step forward in the effort to close the funding gap for diverse founders that exists in the marketplace today,” said Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley and Co-Head of the Multicultural Client Strategy Group. “I am excited to hit the ground running to work with these talented founders, having witnessed first-hand the tremendous success of the program in bringing these businesses to scale.”
The companies participating in the program began on August 16 and are operating in a hybrid environment, using online video platforms to facilitate the Lab curriculum and convening in-person to foster community. The entrepreneurs receive support from a dedicated Morgan Stanley team delivering tailored experiences to help each company grow. The program will run through January 2022, culminating in the sixth Multicultural Innovation Lab Showcase and Demo Day that will present the companies to potential investors.
The Lab has had four successful years with six cohorts and continues to expand in the fifth year with the goal of increasing access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs, which has proven successful as evidenced by resulting company acquisitions and additional funding rounds following participation in the program. Some notable examples include:
- AptDeco, a peer to peer marketplace for buying and selling furniture, has expanded to two additional geographical markets and secured partnerships with brands such as West Elm and Pottery Barn.
- Virtual-reality-based (VR) diversity and inclusion platform, Praxis Labs raised $3.2 million in seed funding earlier this year, making founder Elise Smith one of 93 Black women to raise more than $1 million for a venture-backed business as of 2020.
- With the support of the MCIL team, BaseCap Analytics, an AI-enabled software company that empowers organizations to efficiently improve their data quality, grew their team by 25 percent, increased their product (vs. service) client threefold, and raised a series seed round.
“We look forward to welcoming our next cohort of founders to provide the tools, resources and connections they need to grow and scale their sector-disrupting businesses,” said Alice Vilma, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab. “Highlighting these great companies with diverse founders and leveraging our expansive and global networks and resources will hopefully widen their universe and attract the capital needed to scale”
The companies that have been selected for the Summer 2021 cohort include the following:
- Cognicor is an AI-powered digital assistant platform for the financial industry, automating and augmenting the efficiency of advisors and support teams of IBDs, Wirehouses, RIAs and insurance firms, enabling scalable operations and accelerating growth.
- Fyt Personal Training is an online platform that connects consumers who need help achieving their goals with the country’s largest network of certified fitness professionals
- Lifesaver is a fintech company that provides a universal mobile banking application for financial institutions that lack cutting-edge digital solutions.
- MedTrans Go is a tech-enabled patient optimization platform that aims to reduce medical appointment cancellations by providing patients access to medical transportation, interpretation services, Rx delivery and telemedicine services.
- Playlister Club is a music discovery platform that provides artists and labels with access to a community of “playlisters” (creators of music playlists) seeking to discover new songs and artists.
- Productions.com is an online marketplace that connects pre-vetted production industry talent to employers in the entertainment and media industry.
- Sozie is a leading on-demand user-generated content (UGC) platform for brands and retailers to engage their employee and shopper communities to create rich product content.
- Stimulus is a relationship intelligence SaaS platform that uses data and analytics to simplify how companies make purchasing decisions by offering vendor search, evaluation, selection and management tools.
The Lab has launched a series of MCIL portfolio company profiles in partnership with The Plug to raise their visibility and drive attention to the market inefficiency when it comes to funding women and multicultural founders.
About the Multicultural Innovation Lab
The Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) is an intensive five-month accelerator designed to help further develop and scale startups, culminating in a Demo Day and showcase presentation to the investor community. Morgan Stanley launched the MCIL in 2017 in order to address inequities in funding of multicultural and women-led startups, which our research shows equals over four trillion dollars in unrealized returns. The team is led by Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and Managing Director Carla Harris and Managing Director Alice Vilma. Together, they have had over 50 years of equity syndicate, investment banking, capital markets and structured finance experience. The Multicultural Innovation Lab, part of our Multicultural Client Strategy Group, was launched to promote financial inclusion and decrease the funding gap for diverse entrepreneurs.
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