Introducing Libra 1.0, a programme to support Black founders and address racial inequality in UK tech

Tech Nation, May 5, 2021 4 min read

We are delighted to announce the launch of our newest growth programme; Libra. Libra is an initiative to tackle the lack of diversity within the UK tech sector, with the inaugural 1.0 iteration focussing on supporting Black founders and their companies at a crucial stage of their scaling journey. With future iterations aiming to support further founders from underrepresented groups, the Libra programme aims to ultimately strengthen the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business – for everyone. 

With applications opening today (5th May 2021), we are looking for up to 30 founders who self-identify as Black or multiracial with Black heritage. The programme will run for 6 months, and consist of sessions and resources designed specifically to accelerate the development of high potential Black-founded tech companies at a pivotal stage of their growth. 

Libra 1.0 will be a springboard for Black founders based in the UK who are growing and scaling despite VC funding challenges. 

Why has Tech Nation created the Libra programme?

Having access to an extended network is important for a startup’s survival. 

The Black Report by 10×10 and Google for startups highlights how important this is for Black founders based in the UK. 

In 2020, Tech Nation partnered with and provided data for the Extend VC and Impact X report to look at how the colour of a founder’s skin can adversely affect their access to capital in the UK. The report highlighted that from 2009 till 2019, only 38 Black entrepreneurs received venture capital funding.

In the  Atomico State of European Tech Report (2020), it was highlighted that, “the BLM movement has cast a spotlight on the massive racial inequalities in the European tech ecosystem.” The Tech Nation Report 2021 also explored the diversity of workers in UK tech

The 2020 Diversity Beyond Gender report found that in 2020, 76% of VC investment went to all-white founding teams, while only 23.36% went to mixed ethnicity founding teams and 0.24% of UK VC investment went to all-Black founding teams. Between 2009 and 2019, only 38 Black entrepreneurs received VC funding, while Black female entrepreneurs received the lowest amount of funding of the decade, at 0.02%. This equates to just one Black female founder – Sharmedean Reid of BeautyStack.  It is also estimated that only 3% of VCs in the UK are Black, with only a few at partner level or in the position to make investment decisions.

Libra, named after the zodiac sign signifying ‘equilibrium’ and represented by a pair of scales, aims to counter these challenges by promoting equality of opportunity and equipping successful Black entrepreneurs with the knowledge, tools and network they need to continue on a strong growth trajectory. 

At Tech Nation, we believe we can make a real difference and help support our future Libra alumni to reach unicorn status and beyond. The Libra programme is a step towards addressing racial inequality in UK Tech, focusing on entrepreneurs who are Black or multiracial with Black heritage facing barriers to accessing VC investment due to racial bias.

What will the Libra programme provide?

The free, non-residential, six-month programme is centred around themed insights sessions, delivered by some of the most established entrepreneurs, covering topics such as raising series A, selling into corporates, scaling your operations and expanding internationally. 

Over 6 months, the 30 founders accepted into the programme will each receive over 60 hours of support, benefit from sessions delivered by successful entrepreneurs, and receive mentoring from world-leading scale coaches on fundamental growth challenges – from fundraising to international expansion

The programme will be focused around four key offerings:

  • Access to Networks: The Libra programme will foster a peer-to-peer network within the cohort, access to the cross programme Tech Nation session to foster a cross-sector network. Additionally, access to KIN (the Tech Nation Network Digital Platform), and the Alumni Network. 
  • Access to Commercial: Access to UK commercial, alumni and international commercial matchmaking. 
  • Access to Capital: Access to venture capital, angel investors and family offices. 
  • Leadership Development: From our customer discovery, we found the importance of having a separate safe space for Black founders to share their Black founder journey and worries. It’s important to have a specialised executive coach who has coached Black founders and help them with their leadership development. We will be hosting 6 Founder Circles, one per month, with an executive coach. The Founder Circle group will also be split into different intersectionalities. For example, a Black woman group. Black women experience a different founder journey than white women or Black men founders who need their own safe space. 

The programme will have a focus on peer-to-peer learning, and the cohort will be introduced to key stakeholders and decision-makers at corporates, investment firms and government bodies during networking events. Additionally, the cohort will have access to the cross-programme sessions hosted by Tech Nation sector programmes focussed on Fintech, Applied AI, and Net Zero.

What is the criteria for the Libra programme?

The criteria for the Libra programme are as follows:

  • The company must have at least one founder that self-identifies as Black or multiracial with Black heritage This member must have a majority/equal equity stake in the business.
  • Digital tech business with a product or service
  • Incorporated within the last 1- 5 years 
  • Headquartered in the UK
  • Your company will be at the Seed to pre-Series A funding stage.
  • If bootstrapped, your max annual revenue is below £1.5m
  • Be able to demonstrate market traction
  • At least one active client or pilot
  • Ambition to scale
  • Able to commit to the programme
  • The programme is not open to consultancies or agencies

If the above criteria sounds like you, apply today – and if you would like to support the Libra programme or have any feedback, please get in touch. Applications close on 30th June.

We are also looking for applications for our other growth programmes: Future Fifty 10.0, Upscale 7.0,  Net Zero 2.0, Applied AI 3.0 and Fintech 4.0. Take a look at the criteria to see if your company fits the bill. 

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