Pharrell’s Black Ambition Prize Awards $3.2M to 36 Black & Brown Startups


by Veracity Savant

November 14, 2023

They’re closing the opportunity gap!

Pharrell’s Black Ambition nonprofit launched in 2020 with the goal of supporting Black and brown entrepreneurs through vital funding, virtual training resources, and events in an effort to close the wealth and opportunity gap, PR Newswire reports. Since its inception, the company has helped over 5,000 founders, awarding 101 prizes and mentorship to another 750 entrepreneurs, with $10M already awarded to finalists. Recently, Black Ambition hosted its 3rd annual “Demo Day” competition at Spring Studios in New York, awarding $3.2 million in prizes to 36 Black and brown startup companies.  

More than 2,000 applicants entered into this year’s competition, beginning on either the General or HBCU Prize track. Companies submitted into five unique categories: Consumer Products and Services, Healthcare, Media and Entertainment, Technology, and Web 3.0. The competition was then narrowed down to 50 finalists across the country, with the top 36 awarded prizes ranging from $20,000 to $250,000. The final eight finalists pitched live on stage for the grand prize of $1 million in front of judges, including Louis Vuitton’s Marilyn Webber, Erik Moore of Base Ventures, and Jay Lundy, SVP Head of Investments & New Ventures at Combs Global. 


The day also included panels featuring founder Pharrell Williams and Black Ambition CEO Felecia Hatcher, and former Black Ambition prize winners Kadidja Dosso of Dosso Beauty and Karissma Yve of Gildform. When the panels were complete, the top prize winners were announced. 

In first place, taking home the $1 million grand prize, was CEO and Founder of Expert IEP, Antoinette Banks, “a parent-facing app that optimizes existing Individualized Education Plans with predictive AI for children diagnosed with a disability. ECOMSPACES, an e-commerce solutions company focusing on everything from product photography to order fulfillment, came in second place with a $250,000 grand prize. In third place was Monocle, a social e-reader that focuses on community-based reading experiences, who took home the HBCU Grand Prize of $200,000. 


The event was hosted by two-time Emmy award-winning host Mario Armstrong, with Hatcher expressing her excitement about the annual competition and its impact on the community at large. 

“Demo Day is a powerful testament to the transformative potential of the Black Ambition Prize. The support of our brand partners…as well as the dedication of our esteemed judges, underscores our commitment to nurturing Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Our impact, illustrated by the 36 top finalists, is a testament to the tangible change we’re creating for underserved communities,” said Hatcher. 

In addition to mentorship, winners also receive resources and connections to additional funding and investors. There will be bi-weekly office hours with industry leaders and brand-building opportunities with global companies like Netflix, Heineken, and Snapchat. Pharrell is also hosting a town hall meeting with winning recipients to receive life coaching, therapeutic workshops, and group and 1-on-1 coaching to help with a holistic career approach. 


“Black Ambition is a feeling; it’s an overwhelming drive to show up consistently in excellence to create lasting, unapologetic impact. For so long, Black and Brown kids with learning differences have been underestimated and forgotten. Earning this $1M prize puts our kids back in the forefront, it gets people thinking deeply about solving the problems in special education. As Founder and CEO, I am deeply grateful to Black Ambition for believing in me, holding space for me, and breaking down barriers. It’s clear that Black Ambition is more than a prize award. It’s a shift in expectation for our culture,” said Grand Prize Winner Antoinette Banks of Expert IEP. 

For the full list of award winners, visit www.BlackAmbitionPrize.com.

Cover photo: Pharrell’s Black Ambition Prize Awards $3.2M to 36 Black & Brown Startups/Photo by Black Ambition Prize


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