African American Entrepreneurs Awarded $120,000 at PowerMoves@Detroit Tech Week

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NOLATech Week in Detroit, Michigan, which took place from April 13-15, was a huge success thanks to a few good companies.

One of those companies is Morgan Stanley.

“We gave them a platform of not just friendly faces but well-respected investors in addition to the significant participation of Morgan Stanley,” Carla Harris, senior client advisor, managing director, Morgan Stanley, told TNJ.com.

The platform Harris speaks of was a week-long $12 million dollar investment and education opportunity called PowerMoves@Detroit, where aspiring and established entrepreneurs received vital information, participated in challenging pitch competitions and were awarded needed seed money to start or grow tech businesses.

PowerMoves.NOLA hosted the event, which was attended by top-tier investors; highly-respected business executives; and seasoned entrepreneurs such as Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, and representatives from the Case, Surdna, and Ford Foundations.

“The turnout was exceptional if you look at the companies and the 15 startups that attended as well as Detroit and the wider region. In addition, what was different and special was that we engaged the local community. Companies that have been around for a long time executed a training curriculum for the companies that participated in the pitch competitions. You saw not just a cross section of Detroit but significant participation. In addition, we had in attendance some of the largest venture capital firms, foundations and accelerators in the country,” Earl Robinson, president, PowerMoves.NOLA, said in an interview with TNJ.com.

Robinson said Power Moves is an initiative of startup funds launched seven years ago that intended to change the dialogue about New Orleans, instead of just talking about Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras.

“We wanted to start a fund to get people to relocate to New Orleans so that in can be known as a hub for startup activity. We looked at companies’ portfolios and saw very little diversity. We realized that the absence of diversity in venture capital eco systems was a national issue – not just a New Orleans issue,” he noted.

PowerMoves@Detroit was launched last year at the Essence Music Festival.

According to Robinson, the initiative has been going very well.  “We were impacting the innovation eco-system in a number of systems. There has been a multiplier effect; to date, we have awarded African American entrepreneurs a little over half a million dollars. More than $15 million dollars in capital commitments has been gathered. It is a multiplier effect not just because of the rewards we made plugging into our network but the strategic advisory work we have shepherded and the various, significant capital funds raised. The Power Moves companies that we have directed invested in companies that have participated in pitch competitions or under our umbrella.”

Harris agreed whole-heartedly. “I was immediately blown away by the caliber of the entrepreneurs at the event. Given the quality of the entrepreneurs and the challenge Earl has articulated, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to expose talented entrepreneurs of color to capital. Power Moves mentors and trains them so they can be ready for institutional and individual capital. It is not just about the story, but how you tell the story and we, at Morgan Stanley, are good at getting public and private companies to come to market and expand the reach of entrepreneurs,” she explained.

So, what is Robinson’s short-term goal for Power Moves? “Tech Week in Detroit was evidence that we are on the right path. We want to have a national impact on the innovation and national eco systems in cities around the country. So far, we have New Orleans, Detroit, D.C., Newark and Oakland. We would like to bring the same programming and infrastructure to other cities,” he says.

His mid-term goal is to be well-established in 7 to 10 cities in the next 3 to 5 years. “Our national expansion has been unwritten so far, but Morgan Stanley, thought partner, strategic partner, and financial investor in Power Moves, has helped us expand to Detroit,” Robinson shares.

Among the winners were Eddie Carrington and Jerry Rucker, co-founders Warranty Ninja, a Detroit company that provides the ability to register and manage product warranties for customers; and Rodney Williams, CEO of LISNR, a high frequency, inaudible smart tone technology, a new communication standard that sends data over audio.

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