Incubation and Diversity

IncubatorsIt is a fact that technology has changed the way business is done, and vice versa. As much as businesses rely on and are shaped by the technology that drives them, so does business influence how technology is manufactured and delivered to end-users. The business incubator has been around in some shape or form since the 1950?s, however, it has emerged as one of the more widely used tools for developing new technology and fostering entrepreneurship.

The primary resources offered by an incubator are business development, access to office space and, perhaps most importantly, access to capital in the form of venture capital, angel investors, or traditional bank loans. Many of the tech start-ups that have gained significant ground since being simply a business plan and barely an idea coming out of someone?s head are now household names (think Reddit) .

What has become apparent, as is the case in many industries, is that very few minorities are represented in the companies that are selected to participate in incubators. Granted there are a variety of qualifications based on the kind of businesses being selected but in the case of technology based businesses, whether hardware development, software development or the leveraging of either to deliver a new service, most of the faces of these businesses are not black or brown.

Groups like New Media Entrepreneurship Accelerator are trying to change that. Founded by two African-Americans, Wayne Sutton and Angela Benton, the goal of this incubator is to offer a community of minority entrepreneurs at the start up stage business advice, and a network of financial and logistical resources as well as a coaching for taking their businesses to the next level. They also offer virtual business services and weekly sessions where entrepreneurs can network with one another. One example of the types of business being developed by New Media is, AisleFinder, an African-American startup that helps grocery shoppers find their items more efficiently by serving as ?a GPS for your supermarket.?

On a more global scale, a number of African based incubators have been flourishing throughout the Continent, bringing to market technologies related to a variety of fields including medical, communications and manufacturing.? Often referred to as ?innovation-hubs?,? they provide largely the same services as U.S. incubators (office space, b2b network, business advice). ?We?nnovation hub is one of these companies. Located in Lagos, Nigeria, like many incubators it leverages technology to solve social problems and offers co-creation spaces and resources, which recruit the skills of entrepreneurs to create impactful start ups.

With the reality of a global economy and its resultant multicultural market place, it goes against good business logic to exclude an entire segment of the population from the process of business innovation. The emergence of incubators aimed at minority startups and entrepreneurs offers a much needed outlet for creative business people of color, and opens the corridor for that creativity to be leveraged as new technology and services which is arguably the very purpose of innovation.