Black Ambition, Pharrell Williams’ non-profit project committed to assisting Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, has awarded $3.2 million to finalists for its third-annual “Demo Day” program.
Over 2,000 candidates took part in this year’s competition, according to a statement. They represented businesses in five different categories: Web 3.0, technology, media and entertainment, consumer products and services, and healthcare.
Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, said, “Demo Day is a powerful testament to the transformative potential of the Black Ambition Prize. The support of our brand partners, like Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Valor Equity Partners, and Spring Studios, as well as the dedication of our esteemed judges, underscores our commitment to nurturing black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Our impact, illustrated by the 36 top finalists, is a testament to the tangible change we’re creating for underserved communities.”
The nationwide competition was narrowed down to 50 finalists, and then reduced further to 36, who got awards ranging from $20,000 to $250,000. The last eight advancing candidates had the one-of-a-kind opportunity to pitch live on stage for the top prize of $1,000,000.
In addition to coaching, award winners will receive resources and connections to additional investors and finance. Also, there will be twice-weekly office hours with top PR, marketing, and brand-building executives from Heineken, Snapchat, Netflix, and other involved firms.
The beneficiaries of the award participate in town hall meetings with Williams and are provided with life coaching and one-on-one and group therapy seminars, which promote a holistic approach to career development.
Marilyn Webber from Louis Vuitton, Erik Moore, Managing Director at Base Ventures, and Jay Lundy, SVP, Head of Investments & New Ventures at Combs Global, served on the panel of judges that selected the prize winners.
As the Grand Prize Winner of its 2023 Prize competition, Black Ambition gave $1 million to Antoinette Banks, CEO and Founder of Expert IEP, a parent-facing software that uses predictive AI to maximize current individualized education plans for kids with disabilities.
Banks said, “Earning this $1M prize puts our kids back in the forefront; it gets people thinking deeply about solving the problems in special education. As founder and CEO, I am deeply grateful to Black Ambition for believing in me, holding space for me, and breaking down barriers. It’s clear that Black Ambition is more than a prize award, it’s a shift in expectation for our culture.”
Along with 33 other prize recipients who also received monetary awards, other notable prize winners include ECOMSPACES, a one-stop shop for e-commerce solutions that range from product photography to order fulfillment, and HBCU Grand Prize Winner Monocle, a social e-reader that fosters a community-focused reading experience. ECOMSPACES and Monocle received $250,000 and $200,000 respectively towards their ventures.
Adidas, Valor Equity Partners, Spring Studios, and Louis Vuitton, the presenter, were among the participating brand partners for the 2023 Black Ambition Prize Demo Day.
Since its inception in 2020, the organization has provided significant support to over 5,000 founders through its extensive virtual training initiatives and events, assisting them in navigating the hurdles of developing successful businesses.
Black Ambition has granted funds and resources to 101 prize winners and mentored an additional 750 entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses.