Tennis powerhouse Serena Williams and actor Michael B. Jordan have individually led impactful initiatives that sit at the intersection of sports, entertainment and activism, and now the two stars are joining forces to empower the next generation of HBCU innovators. According to AfroTech, Williams and Jordan have teamed up with the venture capital firm MaC VC for the creation of a project designed to support students and alumni at historically Black colleges and universities who are charting paths in entrepreneurship.
Jordan, Williams and the seed-stage VC company are organizing a pitch competition for HBCU scholars who have or aspire to launch their own ventures. Participants will have the opportunity to submit their business plans to investors for the chance to win a $1 million investment from Williams’ Serena Ventures and MaC VC. The winners of the competition will be announced on December 18 during the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic Basketball Showcase Finals; a competition that Jordan founded in an effort to increase the visibility of HBCU teams within the realm of sports. A collective of venture capital firms including Harlem Capital and Thirty Five Ventures will serve as advisors.
Michael Palank, who serves as General Partner at MaC VC, says it’s imperative that the disparities surrounding access to venture capital are addressed and it starts with supporting underrepresented entrepreneurial talent. “At MaC we like to say that talent is ubiquitous but access to opportunity is not,” he said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Two of our partners are HBCU alumni and we could not be more excited to uncover and support the amazing entrepreneurial talent we know is thriving at these universities.” Alison Stillman, the General Partner at Serena Ventures, added HBCUs “have long been centers of entrepreneurial excellence.”
Initiatives like the pitch competition being led by Jordan, Williams and MaC VC are needed. The Harvard Business Review reported Black founders receive less than 1 percent of venture capital.