Here’s How NJIT Wants to Help Minority Newark Residents Launch High-Tech Businesses

One of these issues, Samuelson said, is people of color being shut out from opportunities to launch a startup in the high-tech industry. The other issue is that intellectual property often stays within a university even if it has commercial potential and the ability to benefit society, she said. 

“Taking that step out of the university is a challenging one, and people try to address that in a lot of different ways,” said Samuelson. “So, we thought why not try and build a new mechanism.”

In order to get innovative ideas out of universities and into the world and equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the right skillset, NJII plans to do so through a three-tiered approach implementing various programs.  

The first program calls for helping individuals learn and refine their skills through the Brick City Entrepreneurship Training initiative. The program is a one-month, part-time bootcamp that trains underrepresented individuals in foundational entrepreneurial skills to become technology startup founders or small business founders. The program will run from Nov. 8 to Dec. 10. 

The second program, ​Entrepreneur-in-Residence, provides training, access and support to minority individuals who are interested in becoming high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurs. Program participants receive a financial stipend, access to entrepreneurial training and mentors, and an opportunity to build startups grounded in university intellectual property. The inaugural program will start in early 2022 with applications opening in December.

The third program, Newark Startup Studio, further aims to serve underserved entrepreneurs from the greater Newark community, especially women, to help them develop and launch sustainable new companies driven by NJIT-generated intellectual property and have access to a wide range of VentureLink resources. 

“The whole idea behind Newark Startup Studio is to take underrepresented startup individuals in the Newark area, give them a little training, pair them with intellectual property that has commercial potential, and then let those individuals run with building the company with the support of our team,” said Samuelson. 

Although the NJII team is excited to get the program up and running, it will come at a hefty cost. The NJII director of growth for entrepreneurship noted that a significant amount of capital will need to be raised to put money into these potential startups and fund them as they grow. 

In order to build out the program's model, Samuelson said it needs to prove that it can work. Through the ​Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, the goal starting out is to scale back the number of participants to test it out and see if it can be successful, she said.

By offering the program to Newark residents, it could introduce more people of color into the tech industry to become industry leaders in a field that has historically favored white people to higher executive positions and opportunities. 

In 2014, tech industry leaders giants Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft published diversity reports which revealed a stark gap between the number of white people and people of color within upper roles in each respective company.

2018 Apple Employer Information Report showed that people of color accounted for only 0.8% of the company’s executive/senior official and managerial roles. 

In 2019, Black people represented just 2% of Google’s tech workers.  

“We are trying to build programs and pathways for people to build the experience, the network and the educational background to get into tech and qualify for the job,” said Samuelson. 

When those opportunities are afforded to aspiring individuals, the director said it can cause a ripple effect within the community. 

“If one person is doing something great or challenging, then other people around them are more inclined to do great and challenging things,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re providing that on-ramp for individuals who haven't had opportunities in the past to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs."

Applications for the Brick City Entrepreneurship Training program are open now. Interested individuals can apply for the program through the link here.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-10-05 03:21:35 -0700