Minority and female entrepreneurs gathered at the Rizzo Center on October 11 to participate in the iNClusive STEM Innovation Pitch Summit.
The event, co-hosted by the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the UNC School of Law, allowed entrepreneurs from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds to showcase and pitch their innovations and businesses for the opportunity to receive funding.
The event was open to women, African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians in STEM fields. Event organizer and assistant professor Anita Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., said the event supported the School and University mission to support underrepresented groups.
“UNC’s first iNClusive STEM Innovation Pitch Summit is an extremely important opportunity, not for innovators from in North Carolina and the University, but for all women and minority ‘STEMpreneurs’ across the country,” said Jackson. “Only 2.7 percent of women and underrepresented minorities receive angel or venture capital funding or get the partners they need to make their companies sustainable. This event tries to support them.”
Applicants with startups or businesses in health sciences, environmental science, engineering and technology fields participated in panel discussions and roundtables and received professional coaching from experienced entrepreneurs and lawyers. A select group of applicants were given the opportunity to pitch their businesses and innovations to a panel of angel investors and venture capitalists for a chance to receive funding.
Minorities are nearly 40 times less likely to receive funding from angel investors or family and friends than their majority counterparts, Jackson said.
“Entrepreneurship is a difficult field, and it’s even tougher for women and minorities,” said Interim Dean Dhiren Thakker, Ph.D. “Being here at today’s event to encourage them and give them the support they need is an important mission of the School and the University.”
The iNClusive STEM Innovation Pitch Summit was the first event of its kind organized by the School, said Thakker, as well as the School’s first collaboration with the UNC School of Law.
“STEM entrepreneurship is the intersection of science, business and law, so it has been great to work with the UNC School of Law on this project,” Thakker said.
Event attendee Rashaad Galloway, co-founder and COO of technology startup Everywhere Ad, said the event was all about access to resources he had been unable to find elsewhere.
“As minorities, the biggest problem that we’ve dealt with is being able to find funding and resources,” Galloway said. “It’s hard being a small startup company, but coming here provides us access to investors as well as the legal counseling that we need to get our company off the ground.”