Rev1 Ventures Launches Mentor Program to Support Women and Entrepreneurs of Color BuildingTech Startups 

Leading Startup Studio Taps $3MM EDA Grant to Bridge Gap for Underserved Founders in Tech-Enabled, High-Growth Businesses

Today, Rev1 Ventures, the startup studio that combines capital and strategic services to help startups scale and corporates innovate, is announcing the launch of its Grow to Scale Mentor Program, which provides women and entrepreneurs of color access to a network of experienced, diverse executives who provide one-on-one support, advice, and networking for founders building tech-enabled, high-growth companies. The program is fueled by a $1.4MM grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) “Build to Scale” program, which aims to accelerate technology entrepreneurship by increasing inclusive access to business support and startup capital. The grant is paired with another $1.4MM Rev1 local match – funding secured through returns from Rev1 investments. 

Mentored startups grow nearly four times faster and raise seven times more money, according to The Startup Genome Report. The Grow to Scale Mentor Program pairs diverse startup clients with a team of two paid mentor executives who provide access to a wealth of knowledge, experience and personal networks that give clients the support they need to reach their business milestones. Clients are matched for a six-month mentor engagement period within which they will meet up to four times per month with their mentor team. 

“Every entrepreneur faces challenges, so having people in your life that help direct, support and shape your mindset is paramount – this is especially true as a black male entrepreneur innovating an industry that has not traditionally been diverse,” said Kenny Anunike, founder & CEO of Skelo Wear®, creating protective equipment and A.I.-powered training devices that enhance player safety and skill development. “With the help of the Rev1 Mentor program, my connection to Craig and his experience has been invaluable as we work to scale. He challenges my perspectives and lends his expertise to help me sidestep common pitfalls entrepreneurs make along this grueling, yet gratifying path of the entrepreneurial journey.”

“Kenny shows up, 100%, to every meeting we have – his energy, drive and willingness to learn are just a few of the reasons why I enjoy working with him and I’m proud to support him in any way I can,” said Craig M. Chavis Jr., executive coach and founder of the Solo CEO Club. “As young black male entrepreneurs, we instantly bonded because we both saw ourselves within each other. There’s no doubt that our relationship will continue well beyond this program.” 

So far, eight startups have joined the first cohort of the program and have already leveraged engagement with more than a dozen industry veterans. All eight of the cohort companies are clients of Rev1’s startup studio and are at the concept or seed stage of their business. 

“Ultimately, the goal is for more women and founders of color to access critical growth capital as we know they face disproportionate challenges as they start and build their business,” said Kristy Campbell, chief operations officer Rev1 Ventures. “This program connects founders with experienced, culturally competent mentors who can help them tackle the tough challenges they face on a daily basis. “We are committed to expanding this program and continuing to find ways to break down barriers and close the equity gap for women and black founders. We see this as an advisory model for the future – and we are dedicated to it within our organization too.  

Rev1’s focus on breaking down barriers for diverse founders has helped to  increase the diversity of funded companies by more than 20 percent from 2019 and 2021.

In addition to the mentor pairings, Rev1 will launch two community inclusion councils to better connect the region’s resources to support underserved founders. The company will also provide cohort-based educational opportunities for the mentored companies, as well as cultural competency training for Rev1’s staff. 

Rev1 also launched the Rev1 Ventures Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Grant Fund to help level the playing field for women and founders of color who are building high-growth companies. The grant fund is paired with educational workshops to create a pipeline of tech-enabled businesses. The Grow to Scale Mentor Program is available to all current Rev1 clients with diverse leadership – either women or entrepreneurs of color. Businesses must be at concept or seed stage. Diverse founders working on a tech-enabled, high-growth idea, can to get started.