Ascend 2020 Atlanta, a program financed by JP Morgan Chase to develop and support minority and women-owned tech companies and small businesses, is laying the groundwork for its first cohort. With only two weeks left for applications to be submitted, tech startup founder Candace Mitchell has come on to develop Ascend 2020’s educational programming as its new Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Mitchell, a Georgia Tech engineering grad and Forbes 30 under 30, founded Techturized, a data-driven hair care startup that produces software for the hair care industry, consumer research, along with a personalized consumer hair care brand, Myavana. She will now be able to share her journey and knowledge— from going through a startup accelerator to raising funding — with the Ascend 2020 Atlanta entrepreneurs.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to persevere a build an internationally-recognized brand and business in just a few years, all while beating the odds of startup success. This role is just an extension of what I already do naturally — meeting with founders, offering advice and guidance on fundraising, how to build your tech product, building your team, customer discovery,” says Mitchell.
“It allows me to leverage my connections and relationships that I have formed while making Atlanta a prime place to be for minorities in tech,” says Mitchell.
It’s a space that is begging for a reboot— the gender and diversity gap in tech funding, for one, is still widely-apparent. Small businesses are growing fastest among entrepreneurs of color, particularly Latina and African American females. Black women actually comprise the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country, with an over 300 percent increase in two decades.
But these businesses are largely bootstrapped, with investment dollars slim. In 2015, only 1 percent of venture-backed founders were black, and 8 percent were female.
Small business loans are also hard to come by — less than 20 percent of conventional small-business loans go to female entrepreneurs, and less than two percent to African-American owned businesses (2013).
“Genius comes in all walks of life, all races, and genders. We’re not here to fit the mold, we’re disrupting the mold,” says Mitchell. She believes Atlanta, recently named a top global city for high potential female entrepreneurs, is capable of being on the forefront to tackle the challenge.
“I hope to see an increase in the number of tech products launched and scaled by minorities and women, as well as the amount of capital going into our companies after mastering the basics of revenue growth and profitability,” Mitchell says. “I want to see the first minority-led billion-dollar tech company founded and grown in Atlanta.”
Ascend 2020 was financed by a $400,000 grant from JP Morgan as part of their Small Business Forward initiative to solve this problem. Currently active or launching in 6 cities around the country, the program links business schools and local organizations to diverse entrepreneurs, specifically from low-income communities. In Atlanta, the grant went to the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center and Techsquare Labs, a startup hub with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Other partners of Ascend 2020 Atlanta include nonprofit community lender Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Each will offer resources and support. For example, Ascend 2020 founders will be able to take advantage of ATDC’s educational programs. They may qualify for discounted or complimentary Techsquare Labs membership.
Apply to Ascend 2020 by August 15 here.