BEKH, Volta and Tribe launch new initiatives to support Black Canadian founders

Two people receiving computer training
Both initiatives look to address the unique, systemic barriers facing Black entrepreneurs.

Two new initiatives have been launched to support Black tech entrepreneurs in Canada.

Tribe Network has partnered with Atlantic Canada accelerator Volta to launch a new residency program for Black founders, while the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (BEKH) is developing a new ecosystem mapping tool for Black entrepreneurs.

“We aim to create an environment where Black founders can thrive and excel in their entrepreneurial journey.”

Matt Cooper, Volta

The new joint program between Tribe and Volta, called Accelerate Black Tech, will combine Volta’s startup mentorship model with Tribe’s network to support Black tech entrepreneurs and their startups.

“By combining Tribe’s educational programs with Volta’s tailored coaching, we aim to create an environment where Black founders can thrive and excel in their entrepreneurial journey,” Matt Cooper, CEO at Volta, said in a statement.

Launched in 2020 with Volta as one of its partners, Tribe Network is an entrepreneurship and innovation hub specifically for entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). The company seeks to provide these founders with opportunities for employment, internships, grant funding, scholarships, education, as well as a network of other BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Last year, Tribe began raising a targeted $20-million fund to invest in high-growth tech startups with BIPOC founders, with plans to invest between $150,000 to $300,000 over the 10-year life of the fund.

Applications for the first cohort of the Accelerate Black Tech program are now open. 

The federal government’s BEKH also announced it is developing an ecosystem mapping tool, which the government says will help users tap into a network of resources, support and opportunities, and boost their profile among customers and investors.

RELATED: Tribe Network launches $20-million VC fund to invest in early-stage stage businesses led by people of colour

BEKH is one of three pillars of the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program, which was launched in 2020. Other pillars include the $160-million Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, which the government said has approved almost $50 million in loans to Black-owned businesses to date, as well as the $100-million National Ecosystem Fund, which the government says has funded 43 nonprofits across the country.

These new initiatives from Volta, Tribe, and the BEKH, whose launches coincide with Black History Month, aim to provide support to Black entrepreneurs, who often face unique and systemic challenges in scaling their businesses. 

According to a 2023 report from Statistics Canada, the number of Black-owned businesses in Canada is growing, yet they tend to be smaller and less profitable than other businesses.

Data from the last five years has indicated Black entrepreneurs, particularly women, are underfunded and underrepresented in North America, with one report noting that out of the total $3.1 billion venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019, less than 0.3 percent went to Black women.

Feature image courtesy Kampus Production via Pexels.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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