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Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition Project awarded $3.2 million to innovative tech entrepreneurs during its third annual “Demo Day” Thursday, November 9.
Founded in 2020, Black Ambition Project supports the growth of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs of tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products/services start-ups.
Thursday’s million dollar grand prize went to CEO Antoinette Banks. She’s the founder of Expert IEP, a parent-facing app that optimizes existing Individualized Education Plans with predictive AI for children diagnosed with a disability.
“Black Ambition is a feeling, it’s an overwhelming drive to show up consistently in excellence to create lasting, unapologetic impact,” Banks stated. “For so long Black and Brown kids with learning differences have been underestimated and forgotten. Earning this $1M prize puts our kids back in the forefront, it gets people thinking deeply about solving the problems in special education.”
Other top prize winners included ECOMSPACES and Monocle. ECOMSPACES won $250,000 for its one-stop-shop for e-commerce solutions ranging from product photography to order fulfillment. Meanwhile, Monocle, an HBCU grand prize winner, received $200,000 for its social e-reader that creates a community-focused reading experience.
Black Ambition CEO Felecia Hatcher joined founder Pharrell Williams Warby Parker Co-CEO David Gilboa for an insightful panel discussion on their journeys.
“Demo Day is a powerful testament to the transformative potential of the Black Ambition Prize,” Hatcher stated. “The support of our brand partners, like Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Valor Equity Partners, and Spring Studios, as well as the dedication of our esteemed judges, underscores our commitment to nurturing Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs.”
Pharrell upscales entrepreneurs through Black Ambition
Nationally, the median wealth for a White household is $188,200 compared to $24,100 for Black families, according to a 2019 report from Brookings.
In 2022, White families on average still had six times more wealth than Black families and five times more wealth than Hispanic families.
That’s where founder Pharrell Williams, CEO Felecia Hatcher and their team at Black Ambition Project come in. Through extensive virtual training initiatives and events, Black Ambition has supported over 5,000 founders since launching in 2020.
Ultimately, it’s about more than just prize money. In addition to receiving mentorship, prize winners receive additional funding and connections with investors. Winners also attend town hall meetings with Pharrell and receive life coaching and therapeutic workshops, both in group and 1-on-1, encouraging a holistic career approach.
In previous years, winners from Detroit and Tulsa, home to the original Black Wall Street, were able to exponentially grow their businesses thanks to Pharrell Williams and the Black Ambition Project.
“With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources, Williams said in 2021.
For a full list of winners, click here.