Barry Givens, Techstars managing director. (Photo: 2020 Hand-out | Credit: Cox Enterprises)

By Reginald L Allen II
Special to the AFRO

The Cox Enterprises’ 2021 Social Impact Accelerator class has been selected. The Atlanta-based program, powered by Techstars, is an annual three-month program that will go virtual for this season due to in-person gathering restrictions because of coronavirus. Nevertheless, the ten organizations chosen will still receive the financial and business network benefits promised.

Barry Givens, Techstars managing director, said each organization receives $120k, a plethora of tools, classes, mentors and possible investors to boost the for-profit businesses. Givens emphasized that all the businesses are selected because of their focus towards addressing systemic racism. A member of the class includes MINWO Inc. a business networker, focused on connecting capital firms and incubators with minority and women businesses. 

Headquartered in Woodbridge, Va., their CEO and Founder Melanie Akwule is a native of the DC-Baltimore area.“Simply put, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Akwule. “MINWO is my passion for bringing wealth to my community turned into a business that’s scalable.” Givens has a bright vision for the 2021 class, hoping that they will be a part of the change needed for problems that have been known years.

“No one has cared to invest in using innovation, to solve the problems that have plagued Black people since slavery.” Givens stated. “Someone has to be intentional about doing this so the goal of this class is to use innovation. Use the same investment, theories and tactics I would use investing in any other company, but doing it in a manner that is focused on solving problems that systemic racism has caused Black people to feel for a really long time.”

Though 80% of the accelerator class is of color, Givens noted the other biggest challenge is simply being an entrepreneur. “The old quote is that we have to do twice as much to go half as far,” said Givens. Techstars’ accelerator class members are all given the resources such as 3-5 mentors, $120k and several potential investors. Givens said the objective for every class is getting two-years of progress done in 13-weeks. 

At the end of the program, the accelerator class will present their businesses at a ‘Demo Day presentation’ on April 29, 2021.

The remaining class members include: JusticeText and Legal Equalizer organizations focused on the justice system and more proper management of information. COMMUNITYx, Empowrd, and Govrn: civic engagement organizations focused on making a political platform for communities. Also, Acclinate, Co:census, STRE.ME, and Unpacking focused on educational resources whether historical or contemporary. Co:census specifically specializes in social surveys for minorities and  those with limited English capability.