New Venture Fellows program to support women- and minority-led ideas, creating more resilient, equitable, and sustainable communities in U.S. cities
October 25, 2022 – 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Los Angeles, CA.—Larta Institute, a non-profit organization accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship, was awarded a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to launch a new Venture Fellows program, which will invest in diverse innovators and community-based solutions to combat the impacts of climate change. The program will support diverse women- and minority-led ideas, creating more resilient, equitable, and sustainable communities in U.S. cities.
With a theme focused on “Entrepreneurs vs. Climate Change,” the Venture Fellows program will focus on supporting ideas that can be translated into startups. The program is housed within Larta Ventures — a new initiative of Larta Institute — that invests in promising founders and impact-focused startups who are working to feed, fuel, and heal the world.
“Climate change impacts everyone everywhere, but the brunt of climate change’s pervasive impacts are borne by the poor and by underserved communities,” said Rohit Shukla, founder and CEO of Larta Institute. “These impacts include extreme heat, lack of access to clean water, clean air and nutritious food, and the availability of sustainable living environments. Our Venture Fellows program aims to support innovative, practical solutions to these issues from budding entrepreneurs who are focused on making a difference in the lives of people facing the consequences of climate change.”
Shukla continued: “With this significant support from Wells Fargo, we look forward to launching and scaling our Venture Fellows program and to attract, support, and invest in undervalued innovators, with the goal of improving the wellbeing and resilience of local communities.”
“There is a real need to create paths for diverse entrepreneurs to lead a more equitable and sustainable future,” said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “The Venture Fellows program aims to improve access to capital and other resources needed by women, people of color, and other underrepresented founders to start, fund, and scale businesses that can have a positive impact on local communities. This program can become an example of what is possible when overlooked communities are empowered to solve humanity’s pressing challenges.”
Through the initial pilot program, a total of 10 sponsored Fellows will be selected to participate in two U.S. cities — Los Angeles and Miami. A call for applications from entrepreneurs of all backgrounds opened in October 2022, and the nine-month program in Los Angeles and Miami will begin in April 2023.
The program will then be expanded to more U.S. cities, including but not limited to Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, and Seattle. These cities were selected strategically due to the prominence of the diverse make-up of the at-risk populations which the program seeks to impact.
The nine-month fellowship program will fund and support diverse innovators via four key threads:
- $100,000 value in resources and funding per Fellow: This is a no-cost program for selected Fellows — no equity or fees — to develop community-based solutions, including one-on-one mentoring and group cohort sessions with industry connections, resources, and funding.
- Trial and iteration of ideas sourced from or applied to local communities: Fellows will deploy their minimal viable product (MVP) solution in a local community — Los Angeles or Miami for the pilot program — with market access support from local cities and NGOs and support to learn from real-life use case experiences.
- Payment of legal fees to incorporate startup ventures and local initiatives: Legal services will be provided to Fellows for incorporation, including expert advice on creating their startup and setup of their business with legal support.
- Access to investors and grant funding to scale startups: Hands-on help will be provided to prepare pitch and materials, with support for identifying and applying for funding and grants. There will also be curated sessions with seed investors, culminating in a Demo Day to help scale their startup.
“The Venture Fellows program supports innovators through a mix of mentoring, connections, resources, and funding,” said Lewis D. Rowe, entrepreneur-in-residence at Larta Ventures. “Our social impact commitment will focus on entrepreneurs and founders who have been overlooked by traditional private investment capital sources. With the Venture Fellows program, we want to accelerate ideas that have the potential to make a tangible impact on underserved communities across the U.S., while supporting communities’ urgent need to adapt to climate change.”
The Venture Fellows program as a whole is designed to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) #13 — “Take action to combat the impacts of climate change and its impacts.” Also known as the Global Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The Venture Fellows program will also accelerate solutions aligned to additional UN SDGs, including:
- Goal 6 & 7 — Clean Energy, Air, and Water:
Our communities, especially in cities, are critically affected by polluted air, increasing heat episodes and clean water availability. These concerns are interrelated and are expected to increase in intensity and impact in coming years. Our communities have a right to clean air, sources of reliable, affordable energy from renewable sources like solar and wind, and water for drinking and everyday use. All these issues are exacerbated by accelerating climate change. We seek community-led approaches that may work alongside municipalities, like small-scale solar and wind projects, water cleaning projects and the use of non-traditional approaches to cleaning our air.
- Goal 2 — Food Security and Zero Hunger:
Food insecurity, and lack of access to nutritious food is increasingly acknowledged by policymakers, community organizations, social impact entrepreneurs, impact entities, and others, especially as these issues pertain to dense urban environments. Today, new disruptions challenge food security and the global food supply chains, even in zones previously unaffected, while inflation has driven essential foods into the realm of unaffordability for many communities across the U.S. Cities need new plans to maintain resilience and engage with communities to “reimagine” food sourcing. We seek changemakers with creative visions in urban farming, city food access, crop diversification, sustainable agriculture, nutrition enhancement, curbing food waste, and solutions for populations at most risk for hunger.
- Goal 11 — Safe, Inclusive, and Sustainable Cities:
City transformation is one of the most critical needs for a sustainable future. High population density and outdated infrastructure make city residents highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Rapid urbanization means our cities face deepening challenges in air pollution, concrete “heat islands,” infrastructure, services, urban sprawl, traffic, waste management, gas emissions, inequality, rising sea levels and carbon emissions. We seek practical solutions that can make modern cities more resilient and adaptable in areas such as public space transformation, smart housing, resource efficiency, education, and transportation.
With 40% of Larta Institute’s current portfolio company CEOs or leadership teams identifying as women and/or minority-led, this funding from Wells Fargo is designed to enhance support for diverse founders of high-growth, early-stage startups to generate greater societal and environmental impact, stronger communities, and prosperity for all.
To learn more or apply to become a Venture Fellow in Los Angeles or Miami, please visit:
About Larta Ventures
Larta Ventures, a subsidiary of the non-profit organization Larta Institute, invests in promising founders and startups who are working to feed, fuel, and heal the world. Through our Venture Fellows program, we invest in diverse innovators to pilot good ideas that help communities become more resilient in response to the impacts of climate change. Our co-creation studio model invests resources and expertise in sustainability-focused ventures to prepare them for seed or Series A funding. We invest capital into impact-driven startups alongside our active funding network.
For more info visit: Larta.Ventures
About Larta Institute
Larta Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization accelerating innovation & entrepreneurship. Our mission is to foster science & technology innovation for a sustainable planet.
Our planet is experiencing significant global problems created by human behavior and policies affecting the environment, food, education, energy, & healthcare systems. New science & technology plays a critical role in transforming how we sustainably feed, fuel, and heal the world.
Larta was founded in 1993, in Los Angeles, as one of California’s regional technology alliances to stimulate the economic development of technology-based enterprises. Larta quickly became the national partner for numerous federal government agencies to commercialize novel research & innovation – including DARPA, NIH, DOE, NSF, NIST, NOAA, and USDA. Today, our innovation platform & ecosystem accelerates new science & technology from idea to sustainable enterprise – by providing a unique combination of connections, resources, and funding.
We have helped over 4,500 startups, and our alumni have raised over $6.5 billion in funds.
Together, let’s feed, fuel, and heal the world. For more info visit: Larta.org
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