Future Founders Launches New Program for Minority and Millennial Entrepreneurs

The following article originally appeared in American Inno on Friday, September 15, 2017.

Future Founders, a youth startup accelerator based out of 1871, is known for cultivating tech and startup talent from children and teens. But now, the nonprofit is planning to work with millennial-aged entrepreneurs as well.

Chicago Inno has learned that in January, Future Founders will launch a new program, branded the Chicago Cohort. The program, which began accepting applications today, is designed for entrepreneurs aged 18-30 who are from underrepresented groups. Racial minorities, women, veterans and immigrants are encouraged to apply, said Scott Issen, president and CEO of Future Founders.

The Chicago Cohort will give members access to mentoring and will help immerse them in the Chicago startup ecosystem. The program is funded by a $125,000 grant from the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge, which is sponsored by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, World Business Chicago and ChicagoNEXT.

Future Founders is funded by a number of sponsors, including Google, the Motorola Solutions Foundation and Accenture.

Issen said the idea for the cohort was sparked by a combination of emerging research on minority groups and the success of Future Founders’ collegiate entrepreneurship program.

Twenty-five fellows graduated from the program since 2015. Of them, 92 percent are running businesses, and have created 44 full-time jobs and 93 part-time jobs. Their combined revenues last year were $3.4 million and they raised about $1.3 million in capital.

“We were so excited by that and saw there was an opportunity to work with millennials who are little bit earlier in the pipeline,” Issen said. “We saw that there was a gap between millennials who want to start businesses and being able to have access to the resources to actually do that.”

There’s also gaps in the number of minority entrepreneurs that launch their own businesses. A 2017 Kauffman Foundation study found that the entrepreneurial community in the U.S. is 80 percent white and almost 65 percent male.


Additionally, the study revealed that if minorities started and owned businesses at the same rate as their white counterparts, the country would have more than 1 million additional employer businesses, resulting in 9.5 million more jobs.

Economic stimulation is one of the reasons ChicagoNEXT wanted to contribute to Future Founders’ new program, said Jimmy Odom, director of inclusive entrepreneurship at ChicagoNEXT.

“Underrepresented groups should theoretically create economic stimulation,” he said. “And ultimately, [the Chicago Cohort] will create a long-term focus on sustainable, inclusive economic growth throughout the economy.

“This is an opportunity for the private sectors, as well as some of our foundation and benefactors, to really support some of this nonprofit work that’s been going on. They are doing the hard work and it’s oftentimes thankless, and this is where we come in to try to help support them.”

To help students with any life or business expenses, the program will allot a total stipend pool of $22,000. The Chicago Cohort will run as a pilot program when it begins in January, and it’s slated to run through the end of June. If it’s successful, Future Founders will reinstate it the following year, Issen said.

“Inclusion is one of our guiding principles,” Issen said. “To the extent that we can give the Cohort members an opportunity to feel like they belong and can contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, I think is really exciting.”

Anyone interested in learning more or applying for the Chicago Cohort can do so here.


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