For decades, the United States has been experiencing an alarming decline in the number of new business startups. Three-quarters of all venture capital monies go to Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston. In 2017, only 1 percent of companies founded by people of color received venture capital funding, while women received a mere 2.2 percent of funding and women of color received less than 1 percent.
While we can be rightfully proud of the large transformative startups that are rapidly changing our world, they are by no means the answer to the documented decline of the American middle class, or the increasing divide between haves and have-nots in our country. We believe it is critical to level the playing field so that most Americans, especially women and people of color, don’t continue to face systemic barriers to starting and growing new businesses.
Through the Bridge the Gap Program, The Craig and Kathryn Hall Foundation will award approximately 10 grants totaling $1 million in 2019-20 to non-profit organizations working to bridge the opportunity gap primarily through support, mentorship, or investment in entrepreneurs who face the most difficult systemic challenges to opportunity in our country. The program will fund organizations serving entrepreneurs who are women, people of color, veterans, or rural residents. We will be looking to parts of the country where there is currently minimal support for entrepreneurship, and will seek organizations with innovative approaches to making entrepreneurship ecosystems more inclusive, while addressing key challenges in the opportunity gap.
Grants for this program will fall into two primary categories:
1) Funding both non-profits and their entrepreneurs.
A portion of this grant will provide matching funds for direct investment in entrepreneurs through a fund operated by the non-profit.
2) Funding non-profits working on innovative solutions to serve entrepreneurs.
In addition to supporting select non-profit organizations with grant funding, we intend to work closely with grantees and entrepreneurs to share stories about their work. Through these stories, we hope to illuminate the challenges faced by entrepreneurs throughout our country, to highlight their successes, and to share pathways forward for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Unsolicited proposals are not accepted for the Bridge the Gap program. Applications will be by invitation only. We will identify new opportunities through referrals, research, other grantees and our networks.