Applications for a new virtual fellowship that supports underrepresented talent will be open later this month.
Founded in December 2020, Visible Hands is a 14-week program that provides funding, company-building services and an ecosystem of industry experts to people whose gender or racial identity is severely underrepresented in the tech industry. According to the program’s website, this includes women, nonbinary people and Black, Latinx and Indigenous Americans.
Out of the approximately 30 fellows that will be accepted into the program, 100% will be underrepresented talent. Visible Hands is working towards closing the funding gap, or as co-founder and general partner Yasmin Cruz Ferrine calls it, “the funding chasm.”
“It’s not really a funding gap. It’s more like the Grand Canyon,” Ferrine said. “Women and people of color make up 70% of the population, but women received 10% of VC funding. If you have compounding biases, like I do, where I’m a woman and a person of color, it was 1% of VC funding.”
Applications for the company’s inaugural cohort open on March 29. During the program, fellows will have the opportunity to build a tech startup from scratch.
Ferrine described the program in two phases. In phase one, members receive $25,000 up front to start building their ventures, searching for co-founders and securing customer validation. Visible Hands wants to fully support its entrepreneurs — without having them subsist solely off of determination and a ramen noodle diet.
“We don’t believe in ‘ramen noodle’ entrepreneurship. We believe that in order to be full-time [members], we needed to provide enough resources, [and] financial capital to do so,” Ferrine said.
The second phase takes place after the 14-week program. When the fellowship concludes, the entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch their ventures to Visible Hand’s Investment Advisory Committee and potentially receive up to $175,000 in funding. Visible Hands will continue to support the entrepreneurs for an additional nine months. This extra time will be focused on achieving key outcomes like acquiring customers and securing seed financing.
Visible Hands provides follow-on funding to a handful of companies, receiving a 10% stake for an investment ranging from $175,000 to $200,000.
“For diverse teams, reaching their fundraising outcomes is still the largest and most significant challenge,” Ferrine said. “To make sure our founders are not over-mentored and under-resourced, we are incredibly intentional about our approach and level of support with the fundraising phase.”
Besides supplying financial capital, Visible Hands is supporting its members by providing access to its ecosystem, a diverse network of over 400 industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. With this network, the entrepreneurs at Visible Hands can find mentors and possibly board members for their organizations.
This first program will run from Sept. 13 to Dec. 17. For the application process, interested persons will have to fill out an application, record and submit answers to interview questions, complete a project review and interview and then participate in a peer workshop.
“What we’re looking for is resilience,” Ferrine said. “We’re looking for resource magnetism. We’re looking for a growth mindset. We’re looking for community orientation. And we’re looking for potential founders that have a commanding insight into a technology, a problem or customer.”