P33 to continue pitch competition for founders of black and Latino startups


“It’s amazing,” Izuakor said of the win. “I’m still in shock and super grateful.”

TechRise was launched in April with a $ 5 million fund to invest in startups owned by various entrepreneurs. The program aims to channel more funds to minority-owned startups, which receive just 1.9% of all startup funding in Chicago, according to P33. Corporate sponsors like Verizon, Discover and Valor Equity Partners have contributed to the TechRise fund.

To date, TechRise reports that 119 startups have participated in 30 competitions. Including last night’s prize, the program awarded more than $ 920,000 to 42 startups.

According to data from P33, the startups that participated in TechRise collectively raised $ 7.2 million in funding and created 420 new jobs. Of the winning teams, 62% were founded by women, 76% by black entrepreneurs and 22% by Latinos.

Because this year’s program has been a success, P33 intends to host another TechRise program in 2022 to disperse even more funds, Desiree Vargas Wrigley, executive director of the program, told the competition.

Cyber ​​Pop-up beat six other startups in Wednesday’s competition, all of which were chosen to compete to win previous TechRise competitions earlier in the year. Grapefruit Health, a platform that connects at-risk seniors with nursing students founded by Eric Alvarez, won the People’s Choice Award and $ 25,000.

Cyber ​​Pop-up, which helps small businesses meet their cybersecurity needs, intends to use the funding to expand the team and the product, Izuakor said. The startup has raised small amounts of funding from other pitch and micro-fund competitions and is currently in the process of raising a $ 2 million round.

Izuakor was named to Crain’s 20 in her 20s list when she was senior director of strategy and global security awareness at United Airlines. Izuakor, who holds a doctorate in security engineering from the University of Colorado, left United in 2019 and launched Cyber ​​Pop-up in 2020.

TechRise is one of many new Chicago funds that have been launched to address funding disparities in Chicago. Others include LongJump, a fund run by startup founders for underrepresented founders, and Fifth Star Funds, a venture philanthropy fund run by Samir Mirza who has invested in Cyber ​​Pop-up.

Besides TechRise, P33 manages and supports many other diversity initiatives in the city. The organization, founded by Penny Pritzker and Chris Gladwin and led by CEO Brad Henderson, helps run programs at Discovery Partners Institute and Pritzker Tech Talent Labs, both aimed at building a more inclusive tech workforce.

Earlier this week, P33 released a report linking the lack of diversity in the tech workforce to the few black and Latino people with computer science degrees in Illinois.

“The more we can highlight things like (TechRise), the more people understand the value and the huge opportunities that are missed when the founders of Black and Brown are overlooked and underestimated,” said Izuakor.


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