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Google has unveiled a $2 million funding scheme for Black startup founders in Europe, in an attempt to combat the dire lack of representation across the technology sector.
According to Atomico’s most recent State of European Tech report, less than half a percent of venture capital money goes to Black founders on the continent, and less than 3% of European venture capitalists identify as Black.
Google has made its own pledges to improve diversity internally following criticism from employees, with CEO Sundar Pichai promising to improve representation of underrepresented groups in the company’s leadership by 30% by 2025.
Under the new initiative, Google for Startups will offer up to $100,000 in cash awards to selected European startups, as well as up to $220,000 per startup in credits to be spent on Google Ads and Cloud space.
Our hope is that this will be part of a wider commitment to change from the entire startup ecosystem,” said Rachael Palmer, Google’s head of VC and startup partnerships. “In the future we want to see more successful Black founders, more Black angel investors, and more Black general partners at the most successful VC firms.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but I am extremely pleased that Google is committed for the long term.”
At the tail end of 2020, Google ran two “Immersion” schemes in Europe, 12-week programmes designed to help Black and female founders on their journeys to success.
Osas Omoigiade, cofounder of photo management platform DeepMeta and a participant in last year’s programme, said the new fund would “help unlock opportunities for founders today working on brilliant businesses to bring their creativity into the public sphere.”
He added: “I think this will motivate other funding bodies whether institutional or otherwise to begin to rethink how they allocate funding.”
Rachael Corson, an Immersion alumna and founder of afro hair products startup Afrochenix, agreed, telling Insider: “We hope this will lead to a more equitable and fair system where the best talent, rather than the best connected talent, can build companies which improve society.”
Wilfred Obeng, a fellow graduate of the Immersion scheme and cofounder at audio adtech firm AudioMob, told Insider the industry was “clearly not as representative as it should be,” adding: “I believe this fund will be the catalyst and motivation for other companies to play their part in improving equality in technology and diversifying who receives venture capital.”
Applications for Google’s Black Founders Fund are now open and close on March 21. You can find more details here.