Microsoft, Dream Legacy Foundation partner to support underrepresented founders

Microsoft for Startups Canada has entered into a new partnership with Dream Legacy Foundation in order to support diverse founders in the Canadian tech ecosystem.

The partnership will directly support new and existing programming for organizations that are part of Dream Legacy Foundation’s Diversity Program initiative.

“The various different groups … are going to have a strong support system from a large scale tech company like Microsoft.”

According to Microsoft, the idea behind the collaboration is to take “an inclusive and intersectional approach” to supporting diverse founders through strategic supports, targeted programs, and events “that will bridge the gaps in existing resources, and maximize entrepreneurial success across these communities.”

“We are proud partners with the multiple programs throughout Canada, building a foundation necessary to move our communities forward,” said Isaac Olowolafe, founder of the Dream Legacy Foundation. “This inaugural collaboration with Microsoft for Startups is an important step in the right direction to see proper representation in the tech community for people of colour, women, LGBTQ+, immigrant, refugee, and accessibility-focused founders.”

Dream Legacy Foundation originally launched its Diversity Program in November. The initiative includes five partner groups: The Centre for Indigenous Innovation and Technology, Access to Success, Venture Out, Jumpstart, Scale without Borders.

Dream Legacy Foundation is a philanthropic organization that was founded by Olowolafe in 2017 with the goal of promoting economic inclusion of marginalized communities. Olowolafe is also the president of Dream Maker Inc., a Toronto-based asset management firm that works in a variety of verticals including real estate, development, property management, and insurance.

RELATED: Dream Maker Ventures launches network to connect underrepresented founders, funders

The Diversity Program was launched in partnership with Dream Maker Ventures, the investment arm of Dream Maker Inc., of which Olowolafe is also the founder and general partner.

Each of the five groups that are part of the Diversity Program will receive support from Microsoft for Startups for new and existing programming.

Microsoft for Startups Canada and Dream Legacy Foundation will work together to provide one on one expert support from Microsoft well as help startups develop new innovative technology and business foundations, and achieve scale (Microsoft for Startups is also the sponsor of BetaKit’s AI Nation series, ed.).

“This inaugural collaboration with Microsoft for Startups is an important step in the right direction to see proper representation in the tech community.”
 
 

Adam Nanjee, managing director of Canada for Microsoft for Startups, told BetaKit the partnership will also see Microsoft provide networking with its other partner hubs and venture capital partners. He added that Microsoft will also be taking a role in helping facilitate future events hosted by the groups, “really putting the full force of Microsoft for Startups behind that.”

On a quarterly and monthly basis, Microsoft for Startups will also work with Dream Legacy Foundation to offer “curated founder events,” with Nanjee noting that the idea is “to ensure that all of the different communities are included in a lot of the different startup ecosystem events throughout Canada.”

“This partnership between Microsoft for Startups Canada and Dream Legacy Foundation is really going to be about ensuring that the various different groups … are going to have a strong support system from a large scale tech company like Microsoft,” Nanjee said to BetaKit. “It’s one thing to say ‘go out and build a great startup and be innovative,’ it’s another thing to actually work with one of the world’s largest tech companies and actually do that.”

This is the latest in a growing list of partnerships and commitments for Microsoft for Startups Canada. The group is part of a global organization that was launched by Microsoft in late 2018 with $500 million, dedicated to helping local startups with sales, marketing, and tech support.

RELATED: The51, Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund partner on women-focused venture initiative

Microsoft for Startups launched in Canada in January 2019. The organization has existing partnerships with Invest Ottawa, MaRS and OneEleven in Toronto, Volta in Halifax, Startup Edmonton, and BC Tech in Vancouver. This partnership with Dream Legacy Foundation marks Microsoft for Startups Canada’s first with a non-innovation hub organization.

“We’ve got quite a few partnerships across Canada primarily with innovation hubs, from Halifax to Vancouver, but one of the things that we had been looking at for quite some time was, ‘is there a group that really represented the entire underrepresented communities,’” said Nanjee, noting that one of the core parts of Microsoft for Startups’ strategy is around diversity, inclusion, and underrepresented founders.

“Now, given the unprecedented times that we’re in, it’s even more impactful that we’re doing this,” the managing director added. “This is a time where large companies like Microsoft, and organizations like Microsoft or Startups, have to really step up and build and be a pillar for the community. I think with the current situation at hand, this partnership will be even more impactful and really will ensure that … these founders have some runway and path to scale their business.”

Dream Legacy Foundation recently supported the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) in publishing a report that pointed to the effects of COVID-19 on underrepresented, Canadian founders.

The initial results of that survey revealed that 85 percent of respondents had lost contracts, customers, or revenue during the crisis. The survey findings were used to form recommendations to policymakers, including urging Canadina governments to implement emergency funding for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

RELATED: Canadian groups urge governments to implement funding for underrepresented entrepreneurs amid COVID-19

On Saturday, the Government of Canada committed $15 million to support women entrepreneurs amid the ongoing economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. At the same time, another investment of $25 million over five years was announced to provide assistance to Black community organizations. The funding will allow grassroots organizations to apply for grants of up to $100,000, starting in late spring.

Another $350 million commitment, also announced Saturday, will see the United Way Centraide Canada, the Canadian Red Cross, and the Community Foundations of Canada help disburse funding to local community-based organizations working with vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2, newcomers, women, children and youth, and Indigenous communities and racialized communities, such as Black Canadians.

Disclosure: Microsoft for Startups is the current sponsor of BetaKit’s AI Nation series.

Photo courtesy Becca Lemire Photography

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.