That’s a Wrap! Reflecting on the Inaugural NextGen Accelerator for…
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That’s a Wrap! Reflecting on the Inaugural NextGen Accelerator for Black Founders

Participants in the 2023 NextGen Accelerator smile at the i-lab.
Participants in the 2023 NextGen Accelerator smile at the i-lab.

This summer, the Harvard Innovation Labs and Amazon Web Services (AWS) welcomed 25 Black-led ventures to the inaugural NextGen Accelerator, a two-week founder bootcamp for early-stage student founders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and universities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Harvard Innovation Labs would like to thank the incredible founders who participated in the program, The Schultz Family Foundation for its generous grant and support, Amazon Web Services for their partnership, and all the startup leaders and investors who volunteered their time to speak to our cohort. Check out some of the photos and posts from the two incredible weeks.

Putting in the Work

Founders engaged in daily interactive workshops covering various topics, such as customer discovery, market validation, pitching, fundraising, and leadership skills. Sessions were led by successful entrepreneurs and experts across a range of industries and function areas. David Willbrand, chief legal officer at Pacaso (pictured below), gave a fundraising chalk; Mark Wilson and Ashok Vairavan, founders of Chime Solutions (Acq. VXI Global Solutions) led a discussion about scaling a business; and Allison Byers, founder of Scroobious, helped founders learn how to build a pitch deck.

Funder Panel and Showcase

As a capstone to the two-week accelerator, four leading Black venture capitalists shared their perspectives on the fundraising landscape for Black founders. Their discussion was wide-ranging, from why only one percent of venture capital money goes to Black founders to what they’re looking for as they decide whether to invest in a startup. Tiffany Johnson, creator of Amazon’s $150M Black Business Accelerator, moderated the panel, which featured: Kofi Ampadu, partner at a16z; Daniel Acheampong (Harvard Kennedy School 2020), founder and general partner at Visible Hands; Javier Grevely, Boston Chapter co-lead at BLCK VC and an investor at Wellington Management; and Eunice Ajim, founding partner at Ajim Capital.


After the panel, founders presented a one-minute pitch about their venture to a full audience at the Harvard Innovation Labs and a virtual audience of investors and innovators in the AWS community. In addition to pitching their ventures, participants gave shout-outs to the staff and advisors who have helped them along the way.