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Local Nonprofit Launches White House Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — On Nov. 30, the White House announced the Diversify Access to Capital Pledge, in which a group of angel investors, venture capitalists, and startup accelerators, including more than 30 organizations, pledge to increase access to seed and early-stage capital to entrepreneurs from diverse groups. Participating organizations represent more than 11,000 investors deploying more than $800 million in investment dollars across the country.

“Our goal is to catalyze early-seed investors to fund startups founded by entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups who historically have had less access to capital,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), one of the pledge signers. “This is one of VVM’s core values and, frankly, common sense when it comes to finding the best investments, innovations, and startups.”

VVM, funded in part by the MassMutual Foundation, is honoring this commitment through training and mentoring diverse entrepreneurs. To date, VVM has graduated 174 startups via its Mentorship and Accelerator programs. In last year’s Accelerator cohort, approximately 50% of the startups were women-led, and 36% led by people of color.

Other local firms, such as the Springfield Venture Fund, also signed the pledge and are invested in making a difference. “We are thrilled to be a signer to the Diversify Access to Capital Pledge and garner national recognition for helping to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Western Massachusetts,” said Jay Leonard, co-manager at the Springfield Venture Fund.

In October, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Commerce Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship invited Roberts, as part of a select group of angel investors and those working to create more angel and seed capital, to a conversation at the White House. This group worked to identify best practices in stimulating broader access to risk capital for entrepreneurs, including for entrepreneurs from backgrounds historically and currently underrepresented in science and tech entrepreneurship. The pledge was an organic byproduct of that meeting.

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