Shopify partners with DMZ, Dream Maker Ventures for Black entrepreneurs initiative

Isaac Olowolafe, General Partner, Dream Maker Ventures, Newton Asare, Managing Director, Dream Maker Ventures.
Earlier this year, Isaac Olowolafe (middle) and Newton Asare (right), partnered with the University of Trinidad and Tobago's incubator. Source DMV Twitter

Shopify is partnering with Ryerson University’s DMZ as a founding partner of the Black Innovation Initiative, a project that seeks to elevate Black entrepreneurs in Canada. The DMZ has called this the first program of its kind in the country.

“DMZ’s fellowship program will improve access for Black entrepreneurs by providing a new path to success.”

Dream Maker Ventures, the investment arm of Dream Maker Corp., a Toronto-based asset management firm that works across various verticals, is also a key contributor to the initiative. The program has an overall funding goal of $1 million. Through the program, selected founders will receive access to senior growth mentors, investors, experts, workspace, and workshops, which the DMZ said were designed to reflect the experience of Black entrepreneurs.

“We’re committed to changing the face of entrepreneurship because we believe in a future with more voices not fewer,” said Shavonne Hasfal-Mcintosh, diversity and belonging lead at Shopify. “DMZ’s fellowship program will improve access for Black entrepreneurs by providing a new path to success, which is another important way we’re helping independent business owners in Canada turn their big ideas into businesses.”

The DMZ told BetaKit, although the total donation amount from Shopify and Dream Maker Ventures is not being disclosed, the ecommerce giant will be providing key individuals within its network to host workshops for the program.

The DMV’s Black Innovation Initiative was first announced last year in collaboration with co-founder of Dream Maker Ventures, Isaac Olowolafe Jr., who led the initiative with a $200,000 donation.

Dream Maker Ventures touts itself the first Canadian venture capital fund founded by people of colour and women, focused on investing in diverse, underrepresented, and underestimated entrepreneurs. It is currently looking to raise a $75 million Diversity Fund, recently bringing on Communitech Fierce Founders creator, Danielle Graham, as a principle. The Diversity Fund will make early-stage, Seed, and Series A investments in tech companies with founding teams that are inclusive of persons of colour, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and indigenous entrepreneurs.

“As Canada’s startup ecosystem goes through tremendous growth, it’s important to continue creating a more inclusive economy in which entrepreneurs from all backgrounds have an opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ. “The Black Innovation Fellowship program will help startups gain access to capital, mentoring and networking to scale globally, and increase our country’s competitiveness.”

Applications to the Black Innovation Fellowship are currently open and more information on eligibility and how to apply can be found at the DMZ’s website.

Image courtesy Dream Maker Ventures via Twitter

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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