Funding academic startups at Empower 2021

Written by
Sept. 12, 2021

The large funding gap that exists for Black startups is now well recognized, as is the difficulty for Black founders to bridge that gap. The Empower 2021 Conference was organized to address the gap and to present funding and networking opportunities for Black faculty, graduate students, postdocs and other founders in deep tech and social sciences.

The conference agenda includes three sessions specifically designed to discuss sources and strategies for funding research-based startups:

  • Non-dilutive funding opportunities for very early startups and technologies will be discussed in the Grant Funding/I-Corps/SBIRs session at 2:00pm ET on September 23. Panelists: Julius Korley, Faculty, Founder and co-director of the new Northeast I-Corps hub announced recently; Treena Livingston Arinzeh, Founder and faculty at NJIT; André Marshall, VP for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact at George Mason University
  • Funding Strategies will be presented on Sept 24 by Joseph DeSimone, a Stanford faculty member and a prolific academic inventor with three startups, over 200 issued patents and over 200 patents pending. He will draw from his experience from his multiple successful startups to discuss how, when and why to fund your startup.
  • VC Panel will follow, giving the funders’ and lawyers’ perspectives on fundraising strategies. Panelists: Ita Ekpoudom, Partner at GingerBread CapitalJennifer Gill Roberts, Managing Partner at Grit VenturesRachel Gholston, Lawyer representing startup founders at MintzSidney McLaurin, Jr., Partner at Material Impact FundEd Zimmerman, Startup/VC Lawyer with Lowenstein Sandler

The conference also includes a startup pitch competition in which six startups with Black founders using academic IP will battle for a first place prize of $100k, plus in-kind services. 

The Empower conference will bring 30 high profile participants together in discussions and presentations focused on celebrating Black academic startups, including Ken ChenaultGaby Greene Sulzberger and Dr. George T. French, Jr.  Admission to Empower 2021 is free and all are welcome. Register now at