Overview

BFN Accelerate follows a structured cohort-based accelerator model offering Black founders capital, capacity-building and community to grow their businesses. Through a competitive selection process, 10 startups from the BFN community with at least one Black-identifying founder will be chosen to participate in an impactful four-month program. BFN Accelerate is designed to be complementary to other opportunities within the entrepreneurship ecosystem and can be completed concurrently with initiatives delivered by other U of T and community accelerators.

  • February 24: Applications open 
  • March 13: Application deadline (11:59 pm) 
  • April 8 to April 16: Finalists invited for an in-person interview at the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus
  • Late April: Winners announced 
  • Early June: Orientation and summer showcase
  • June 17 to 20: Collision Conference
  • July 10 to 12: Montreal StartupFest
  • Late September: BFN Demo Day
  • October 1 to 3: Elevate Festival
  • June to September: Weekly workshops and programming

Please submit your application form no later than 11:59 pm EST on March 13, 2024. Applications received after this time will not be considered. 

Deadline: March 13, 2024, at 11:59 pm

Why Join?

This program is for Black founders or co-founders of early-stage companies from all industries and sectors, as long as you have some early traction with your venture and evidence of need and potential demand for your product or service. This can include a prototype, minimum viable product (MVP), early revenue, or initial funding through grants and pitch competitions.

As a member of BFN Accelerate, you will become an active part of a vibrant community of Black-led startups where you’ll gain access to an unparalleled network of peers, mentors, resources, education, and support with venture funding. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet with our Entrepreneur and Investor “in-residence” during weekly office hours, receive dedicated mentorship, and have access to the ONRamp community and co-working space at the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus in the heart of downtown Toronto. See more perks below:

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 workshop, intellectual property, media relations 101, startup accounting and operations workshops, investment readiness workshops, startup legal workshops and many more
  • Tickets to top Canadian tech and innovation conferences such as Collision, Elevate Festival and Startup Fest.

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 and BFN job board
  • Access to a $5,000 hring grant through the BFN Black Career Advancement Program
  • 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 at UofT’s Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus in Toronto’s innovation district

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 access to the newly launched BFN community platform where you will access resources on the funding and resources available to Black entrepreneurs, offer and receive mentorship, source for talent to grow your startups, offer your business services on our business directory, connect with likeminded innovators, and build community with a group of peers facing many of the same 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 has established connections with several renowned early-stage venture capital firms and angel investors in Canada and other parts of the world. Our supporters, some of whom are investors themselves, have a particular investment thesis, which involves supporting founders from underrepresented communities, including BIPOC founders. We don’t just help you refine your pitch and provide early and frequent opportunities to meet investors; we also strive to discover other avenues for obtaining non-dilutive funding.

Furthermore, BFN offers exclusive grants and awards to our participants. Each startup accepted into the cohort will have access to up to $5000 to be exclusively used towards eligible startup services. The BFN Startup Services Fund aims to help companies in program cohorts offset the costs of relevant expenses tied to running their business. It will be accessible from the beginning of the program (June) to the end of the calendar year and will require advanced approval through UTE/BFN. Additionally, BFN Accelerate startups will have the opportunity to compete for up to $50,000 throughout the program and at BFN’s annual Demo Day in September.

Meet the 2023 Cohort

Through a competitive selection process, 10 startup companies with at least one Black-identifying founder from the BFN community were chosen to participate in the inaugural BFN Accelerate Program. Hear from them and other BFN community members:

FAQ

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. We intend to have as much in-person participation as possible to facilitate community buiding. Our goal is to maintain a safe environment for our members and recognize the value of select virtual programming. The expectation is for the primary founder to be available in person for the orientation and cumulating events of the program; however, we will do our best to accommodate all types of learning and scenarios that emerge as a company founder.

Although BFN Accelerate is a structured program and participants are expected to be active members of the community, it is intended to support, not interfere, with the growth of your venture. Therefore, the average time commitment required to participate in the program is two hours per week. This may be higher during certain weeks, especially in the formative part of the program (June and July).

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. Each startup accepted into the cohort will have access to up to $5000 to be exclusively used towards eligible startup services. The BFN Startup Services Fund aims to help companies in program cohorts to offset the costs of relevant expenses tied to running their business. It will be accessible from the beginning of the program (June) to the end of the calendar year and will require advanced approval through UTE/BFN. Additionally, BFN Accelerate startups will have the opportunity to compete for up to $50,000 throughout the program and at BFN’s annual Demo Day in October.

• Lead applicant must be a U of T student, alumni, faculty or staff, OR lead applicant is affiliated with one of U of T’s Campus Accelerators

• Lead applicant must self-identify as Black

• Lead applicant must hold a significant equity stake in the company

• Open to applicants from all U of T divisions, faculties and campuses. We are industry, sector and technology agnostic.

  • The company should have some early traction with evidence of need and potential demand for the product or service.
  • Lead applicant must complete U of T’s IP Education Level 1 course to be considered for a final interview (this can be done after you submit your initial application, but **MUST** be completed by April 1st). The UTE Community believes all our members should have basic literacy with regard to intellectual property. These free, online modules should take you approximately two hours to complete. For applicants with a strong foundation in their IP knowledge, completion of Level 1 can be replaced by completion of a Level 2 Topic.

BFN Accelerate is industry and sector-agnostic, which means it does not focus on any specific industry or sector. As long as your company meets the other eligibility criteria, you can apply regardless of your industry or sector.

BFN Accelerate does provide access to venture funding, but it is not the only focus of the program. The program is designed to support Black-led startups in various ways, including education, mentorship, and resources. Whether or not your company is seeking venture funding, you can still benefit from the program’s other offerings.

Connect with BFN

Sign up for Office Hours

Sign up for the BFN Monthly Newsletter