Overview

BFN Accelerate follows a classic cohort-based accelerator model. Through a competitive selection process, 8-10 startup companies from the U of T community with at least one Black-identifying founder will be chosen to participate in an impactful three-month program. BFN Accelerate is designed to be complementary to other opportunities within the U of T Entrepreneurship community and can be completed concurrently with initiatives delivered by U of T’s accelerators.

Meet the 2022 cohort

Through a competitive selection process, 11 startup companies with at least one Black-identifying founder from the University of Toronto community were chosen to participate in the inaugural BFN Accelerate Program.

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Why join?

This program is for Black founders of early-stage companies and their co-founders. We are industry and sector agnostic. You should have some early traction with your venture and evidence that there is a need and potential demand for your product or service. You might have a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP), some early revenue or initial funding through grants and pitch competitions. We are looking for founders who want to be active members of this vibrant community. BFN Accelerate provides Black-led startups with access to an unparalleled network of peers and mentors, resources, education and support with venture funding.

BFN Accelerate’s structured program delivers education and workshops tailored to Black entrepreneurs, including workshops/sessions with an emphasis on market and customer research, MVP product development, competitor analysis, beta testing, revenue generation and product-market fit. Plus, members of BFN Accelerate gain access to weekly Entrepreneur and Investor “in-residence” office hours, dedicated mentorship and dedicated co-working space for teams. 

Programming will include case studies and speakers from the Black community and beyond.  Sessions will cover topics such as:

  • Setting up your company and team structure
  • Finding product market fit
  • Building inclusive customer-centric products
  • Business model development and pricing
  • User acquisition and growth with a focus on value chain distribution
  • Marketing and brand workshops
  • Intellectual property
  • Media relations 101
  • Startup accounting and operations workshops with weekly office hours
  • Investment readiness workshops with weekly office hours
  • Startup legal workshops with weekly office hours
  • Effective mentorship and allyship

BFN Accelerate members will have access to a broad range of resources, including:

  • Co-founder matching, support with talent and staffing, including access to the UTE job board
  • Idea/solution feedback from the community
  • Templates to support operations, finance, legal and HR functions MVP and website development tools (low code, no code)
  • Access to a broad range of startup perks, ranging from cloud computing credits, to free online stores to discounted printing and productivity software
  • Co-working hot desk space in the ONRamp on the St. George campus

Connect and learn from the BFN’s community of founders, investors and professionals from different industries and stages as you build your startup.  As part of the BFN Accelerate cohort, you will also have a group of peers facing many of the same founder challenges as you.

Nobody succeeds alone. An incredible network of dedicated mentors and advisors will coach and support you through the various stages of venture creation and founder life. Allies who are committed to opening doors and making introductions will help to get you in front of potential investors, customers and partners. See the full list of mentors, advisors and allies.

BFN Accelerate is connected to many of the top early stage venture capital and angel investors in Canada and beyond.  Many of our early investor supporters have a specific investment thesis and commitment to support BIPOC founders and other under-represented communities.  In addition to helping you polish your pitch and getting you in front of investors early and often, BFN Accelerate will work to identify other opportunities for non-dilutive funding and intends to private separate BFN grants and awards.

BFN Accelerate will help you develop solutions to meet the customer’s needs, launch of MVP/beta, start to grow your team, generate revenue, secure funding and explore value chain/distribution partnerships.  

Important dates:

Applications to the first BFN Accelerate cohort are now closed.

FAQs

If the primary applicant from U of T is accepted into the BFN Accelerate cohort, the venture co-founders are welcome to join sessions; however, the primary U of T founder and applicant should be the primary participant in sessions.

Non-Black team members are also welcome to attend BFN Accelerate sessions.

BFN Accelerate programming will be a combination of in-person and online events and sessions. Our intent is to have as much in-person participation as possible, while maintaining a safe environment for our members by following the University of Toronto’s COVID-19 planning updates. The expectation is for the primary founder to be available for the orientation and cumulating events of the program; however, we will do our best to accommodate all types of learning.

As of April 26, 2022, masks will continue to be required in classrooms and in indoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained. The University continues to recommend the use of medical-grade masks where possible.

The BFN Accelerate program is intended to support, not interfere, with the growth of your venture. The average time commitment required to participate in the program is two hours per week.

There will be many supplemental programming activities and opportunities which participants will be encouraged to join, but not required.

BFN is committed to providing non-dilutive funding to cohort startups that meet the program milestones. BFN Accelerate cohort members will be exposed to funding opportunities via pitch competitions, VCs, corporate partners, donors/alumni, etc. 

Applicants must have completed U of T’s IP Education Level 1. Please use the registration form to sign up. Current UofT students will receive CCR credit upon completion on Quercus. For non-UofT applicants who require a UTORID for access, please select “BFN Applicant” on the registration form, and you will be provided with a temporary UTORID upon verification. Please note, requesting a new UTORID may take up to 2-3 business days to process.  
 

For applicants who already have a strong foundation in their IP knowledge, completion of Level 1 can be replaced by completion of a Level 2 Topic. If you already have extensive knowledge or experience with IP matters and wish to take Level 2 without taking Level 1, please request a waiver of the Level 1 pre-requisite on the Level 2 Registration Forms by typing “BFN Application Waiver” in the field that asks “What date did you complete Level 1?”  

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Meet the 2022 BFN Accelerate Cohort

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