The DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit catalyzes growth for an equitable tech ecosystem amidst economic uncertainty for startups
Over $35,000 CAD in funding awarded to Black-led tech startups in Canada
Toronto, April 24, 2023 – The DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit brought together leaders from the tech ecosystem to celebrate Black-led innovation and drive an inclusive startup community.
Despite widespread efforts to promote a diverse startup ecosystem, Black founders continue to face significant challenges when building and growing their businesses. A world-leading incubator, the DMZ hosted its third Black Innovation Summit which heard from Black-led tech startups, government officials and prominent tech leaders to highlight how founders can build during economic uncertainty and how the ecosystem can rally together to support them.
Part of the summit programming included a pitch competition, where seven Black-founded startups pitched their companies to a panel of judges for the chance to secure funding, where $35,000 in funding was distributed to winners determined by a panel of judges. The top-ranking companies included:
1st place and community choice winner: Emmanuel Akindele, Founder and CEO of Blue Guardian
2nd place: Edo Odozor, Founder and CEO of Gia Heatlh
3rd place: Jonathon Bloomfield, Founder of Scooli
The annual summit, kicked off by Patrice Barnes, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, builds upon the success of the DMZ’s Black Innovation Programs. Participating startups hail from a range of the DMZ’s Black Innovation programming, including Black Innovation Connections, Black Innovation Program Social Impact Stream, Incubator and Pre-Incubator. Through these DMZ programs, tech founders had access to catered support and industry connections to enhance their business operations and propel their ventures to new heights.
First-place and community choice winner Blue Guardian leverages AI to monitor for early signs of mental health issues in youth. Founder and CEO Emmanuel Akindele highlighted the impact the DMZ has had on his startup’s trajectory and what he plans to do with the funding. “The DMZ’s community is truly unmatched and has opened door after door for Blue Guardian. The Black Innovation Summit is just one of many benefits their programming offers. We have such an amazing team of talented and passionate individuals – this funding will help us grow, so we can advance our mission of making youth mental health resources available to all of the world.”
“Designed to honour Black excellence across Canada, the DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit is an opportunity to put founders at the forefront of our efforts and spark conversations with the larger community on how we can better empower Black entrepreneurs and their ventures,” said Abdullah Snobar, the Executive Director of the DMZ and CEO of DMZ Ventures. “As the Black Innovation Program’s marquee event, the summit perfectly encapsulates what our program offers: community, mentorship, connections to customers and partners and access to capital.”
Author, Co-Founder, and former CEO of truLOCAL, Marc Lafleur emphasized the need for community-driven events like the DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit, highlighting that “the DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit is exactly the type of event that will inspire black entrepreneurs to believe that not only do we deserve a spot at the table — but because business is essentially a crash course in dealing with adversity — the table was actually built for us.”
Black-identifying founders looking for hands-on, tailored support to take their business to the next level can learn more about the DMZ’s Black Innovation Programs at dmz.to/bip.
Luvy Hardy, The DMZ
About the DMZ’s Black Innovation Programs
The Black Innovation Programs provide startups led by Black entrepreneurs with the strengthening support of a top university-based incubator network, as well as additional programming, mentorship, events, and connections to industry, capital and an alumni network, to support their success and growth.
About the DMZ
The DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, the DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, the DMZ has helped more than 770 startups raise $1.95 billion in capital and create 4,900+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, the DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam, India, and the U.S., and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.