2021 Grants Challenge

Accelerating South LA’s Tech Ecosystem

The Plug In South LA Accelerator Program supports promising early-stage tech entrepreneurs from underserved and underrepresented communities who are poised to disrupt their industries. This intensive program helps Black and Latinx entrepreneurs prepare to raise capital, pitch potential investors, and develop strategies for scaling up their businesses. Local business leaders from LA’s tech ecosystem provide guidance through curated mentoring sessions that meet the entrepreneurs based on where they are in their development.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Black- and Latinx-led companies started more than a million new businesses in the U.S. over the past decade. Despite this, the opportunity gap is a chasm. Less than 2% of available venture funding reaches Black and Latinx startup founders. White startup founders are 3.4 times more likely to receive approved capital investment than their Black and Brown counterparts. A business starting strong financially can endure challenges, adapt to changes, and scale up. Startups with significant initial investment are also more likely to receive additional funding during future funding rounds. The odds are stacked against founders lacking initial investment. Four factors are critical in determining whether a small business succeeds or fails: financial resources, management capability, brand awareness, and startup capital access. The Plug In South LA Accelerator Program targets these areas for minority early-stage tech entrepreneurs, laying the groundwork for a more equitable path forward.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

The Plug In South LA Accelerator Program supports promising Black and Latinx early-stage tech startup founders through weekly workshops, guest speakers, and one-on-one mentorship with local industry leaders. The founders learn how to grow and sustain a successful venture. Sessions cover topics such as product development, team building, fundraising strategies, and user acquisition growth. The seasonal program runs from 12 to 20 weeks and culminates in a showcase where the founders present their companies to experts, community leaders, and prospective investors. Plug In South LA does not have an equity stake in the startups. Instead, we take a hands-on approach to workshop the founders’ challenges, helping them develop, communicate, and execute their ideas to scale up their businesses. Participating founders typically lack investor networks, meaning they haven’t received the introductions required to raise seed capital. Our program taps into a network of investors who engage in candid, productive conversations, putting the founders in a stronger position. Making the program available year-round would give significantly more local underrepresented entrepreneurs the resources to leap across the opportunity gap.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 90

Indirect Impact: 1,350

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The Plug In South LA Accelerator Program’s first cohort of five local startup founders graduated in 2020. Founders emerged with quantifiable gains including signing paid customers, increases in online conversions, hiring employees, and raising capital. The current second cohort has eight founders. Dozens of mentors and speakers volunteer for the program. Each participating founder creates positive ripple effects in LA. Successfully offering the program year-round will scale up benefits locally: boosting existing businesses and suppliers, creating job opportunities, inspiring young innovators, and building a diverse talent pipeline for the broader tech industry in Los Angeles County. A stronger startup community in South LA provides a tangible economic boost to the region. With this grant, a year-round program will support 90 Black and Latinx early-stage founders annually, increasing the number of viable local businesses while advancing Los Angeles as a tech entrepreneurship hub.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Plug In South LA measures the success of the accelerator program by tracking several metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). One the number of graduates from each cohort. We also look at the number and quality of new entrepreneurs applying to the program, including the diversity of their tech offerings. We measure entrepreneurship maturity for each participant pre- and post-program by looking at their business growth, partnership growth, and any acquisitions/IPOs. The amount of investment in the startup founders as a whole is an important metric, including successful fundraising rates, number of new investors, and the average investment. In addition we track engagement through the number of volunteer and guest mentors, and the overall number of programs in South LA that promote entrepreneurship.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Employment in the tech industries

Minority- and women-owned businesses

High-growth startups

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

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