Announcing Backstage Accelerator
Diversity is Strength
Diversity is core to who we are at Backstage. Arlan Hamilton, our Founder, is a Black gay woman who recognized early that underrepresented founders were being overlooked and underestimated. Investors were leaving money on the table. At Backstage, we’ve put this thesis to work and invested in 100 companies led by underestimated founders (in our case founders who identify as Women, People of Color, and/or LGBTQ). Every company in the Backstage100 exemplifies “grit” and does more with less.
The new Backstage Accelerator will focus on supporting the best companies led by underestimated founders. We’ll be working with our first cohorts in Philadelphia, London, Los Angeles, and a 4th city that will be determined with your help! New Backstage Crew members have been chosen and are joining in each city to help us run these programs, led by the Backstage core Crew. From city to city, after completing our program, our hope is that Accelerator founders will be better prepared and positioned to take their company to the next level.
It Takes a Village
Startups don’t succeed in a vacuum. It’s not a requirement to be in Silicon Valley in order to be successful. We’ve visited (and invested in!) cities all over the U.S. and the U.K., and found that there are passionate and committed people founding, funding, and supporting companies all over the world. With Backstage Accelerator, we aim to be part of a movement that galvanizes successful entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world.
Just as any city’s sports team can win a championship, any city should be able to have a winning startup ecosystem. Unlike in sports, entrepreneurship is not a zero-sum game. For Philadelphia to win, Los Angeles doesn’t have to lose.
Backstage is also working with a village of supporters who have been fundamental in shaping and supporting the Accelerator.
Over the summer, we’ve gotten to know MailChimp and Microsoft, and are proud to be partnering with both of them as our first Launch Partners. With Microsoft’s commitments to underrepresented founders, and the Microsoft for Startups program offering best-in-class support to entrepreneurs and founders all over the world, Microsoft is not only a great fit to support the Backstage Accelerator, but a leader among its peers. We are proud to partner with Microsoft as a premier technology platform provider for the Accelerator.
We’re pumped to have Wayne Sutton and Melinda Epler of Change Catalyst join the Backstage Crew to help develop the programming and the local startup ecosystems for each of the accelerator cohorts. Additionally, we are continuing our partnership with Tangelo Technologies to guide our founders to build scalable technological solutions for their market. Tangelo and the Backstage team are also working together to provide tools that connect the founders with relevant resources as they go through the program.
We were honored to have Mark Levy join the Backstage Crew earlier this year. Mark is a seasoned, globally-minded employee experience leader. Most recently, Mark pioneered the design of the Employee Experience at Airbnb, which was recognized as the #1 Place to Work in 2016 by Glassdoor. Mark will help to design a consistently excellent founder experience in the Accelerator from city to city.
In Philadelphia, Liz Brown, Opeola Bukola and Thom Webster are joining us to help develop and launch Accelerator. Based in Philly, Liz, Opeola and Thom are a dream team, with combined decades of experience working in startup, venture and government. Additionally, Aniyia Williams is a Special Advisor in Philadelphia and has been actively involved in accelerator planning and development. Aniyia’s organization, Black and Brown Founders, is an incredible resource for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, and we are grateful for her expertise. We will be announcing more details about the London and Los Angeles Crews soon.
Many others on the Backstage HQ Crew have been working behind the scenes and alongside our partners to bring the Accelerator to life. With experience at other accelerators, VC firms, top tech companies and at startups of their own, the top priority for the Crew is creating a valuable and impactful program that centers on founders and their success. We’ve learned what founders need by reviewing more than 3,000 companies, investing in 100, and supporting the Headliners every day. Our Headliners are each other’s biggest advocates, and we’re looking forward to new Accelerator founders becoming a part of the Backstage family.
Success for All
Backstage Accelerator will support founders in two key ways. We will invest $100K into each company in exchange for 5% of company equity. Our unique approach will focus on helping talented underestimated founders succeed in the long-term. For example, we believe there are many opportunities to extend a startup’s runway.
Accelerator founders will be prepared to raise additional capital from VCs, as well as generate early revenue and path to profitability. Additionally, Microsoft for Startups is proud to invite all participating B2B startups to its program, ensuring the founders have the world-class technology, support, GTM and sales resources they need to succeed. Together, we’re looking forward to learning as we go, and serving the Backstage 100 and new cohort companies for years to come.
It’s Time for Change
There’s a tired narrative that exists about who gets to win from building a successful startup. The dozens of founders who will go through the Backstage Accelerator are writing new stories about people who look like all of us. Their successful companies will benefit them, their investors, their employees, and their local communities.
Are you an underrepresented founder interested in joining the Spring 2019 batch? Learn more about the program and apply now.
Corporations, investors, ecosystem thought leaders — are you interested in partnering with us to change the narrative? Let’s talk .