R/GA Ventures has spun out a new program for underrepresented founders, supporting them at varying levels with mentorship, resources and funding for a select few. Davyeon Ross, a former collegiate basketball player and founder of ShotTracker, a sports analytics company, serves as the entrepreneur in residence of Coalition Venture Studios, the new initiative which launched in March. The international innovation consultancy is building a database of diverse founders which they will plug for collaborates on projects within their wide-reaching network of 5,000 brands and corporations. Founders who submit themselves to the database could be selected for contracts and for the tiered support of the Coalition.
The fact that we were able to get the Managing Director [of Verizon Ventures] to make this available is a ridiculous blessing and I feel fortunate to be involved, Ross told The Plug. My role has been to help drive the strategy in how we move the needle and connect. I wanted to use my experience working with R/GA as a founder to build a roadmap to help other founders.
The Coalition focuses on three tiers of support, at the relationship capital level, to incorporate Black and brown founders into paid projects that give them access to companies they traditionally wouldn't have access to through R/GA's network.R/GA will also offer creative capital support, providing free digital work to founders, a subset of founders that come through the Coalition will get investment from R/GA. Customers and partners of R/GA participate in the syndicate pool of funds that go to members of the Coalition.
When everything happened with George Floyd last summer R/GA reached out saying, 'we want to do something, what should we do?' so the Coalition is what we came up with, Ross said.Ross has worked with R/GA since 2016 when they participated in an accelerator round for ShotTracker, which has raised $40 million to date. R/GA has notably been a part of high-profile go-to-market strategies like the launch for Beats by Dre [link] and Nike's SNKR's app. He notes that only venture backable companies need apply in order to stand up to the vetting process Coalition companies must undergo.
If you have an idea on the back of a napkin, this might not be the vehicle. Where we can really help is democratized access, say you have the best fintech product but you don't know how to get it into the hands of American Express, Ross said. The thing is R/GA is setting the innovation strategy for a lot of these big companies, so if we set the strategy and we know about your product and they have a problem statement we can say 'hey look at this founder.
The networking component of the Coalition is key and comes at a time when corporations are looking to align their funding and resources with social good. The time is now, everybody wants to make change, Ross said. When one of us gets a seat at the table we should look to bring other people in.