Seattle-based Raynier Institute and Foundation is making its mark in the Philly area through a seed fund for underserved entrepreneurs.
The nonprofit, which funds projects or programs that work toward the “betterment of humanity” partnered with Drexel University and the University City Science Center to identify startups with an eye on supporting service organizations and improving equity.
Four startups were chosen for the first cohort of the Raynier Seed Fund for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs, which was first established with the Science Center and Drexel back in 2021 with a $500,000 grant to help address startup funding disparities within minority owned businesses. Each of the selected startups for this first cohort will receive a $25,000 investment, mentorship and entrepreneurial services support.
The four companies chosen are:
- Vital Start Health,founded by Kirthika Parmeswaran: a platform focused on maternal well-being and mental health
- Tribaja, founded by Shannon Morales: an online community for underrepresented people in the tech industry looking for jobs and a network
- Knowledge to Own, founded by Alberto Estrello: helps homebuyers and provides “personalized match to home loan programs”
- TDR Ideas, founded by Kaleb Banksassists: service organizations through strategic planning, data analysis, program evaluation and more
According to Shintaro Kaido, Drexel’s vice provost for innovation and a co-administrator of the Raynier Seed Fund, community partners including those in “local and regional civic service, economic development and venture capital organizations.” They ID’d these companies as good opportunities to support underrepresented entrepreneurs, he said.
“The finalists stood out as the top candidates after live-pitching their ventures to a panel of judges from Drexel and the University City Science Center,” he said. “They are tremendous ambassadors of the promise and excitement of minority-founded, early stage companies in our region.”
Along with capital, each startup will also receive mentorship and support from Drexel and the Science Center, as well as a membership at ic@3401, a startup incubator co-managed by Drexel and UCSC.
About the Science Center
The University City Science Center is Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation, and economic growth. Established in 1963, the nonprofit has been recognized by The Brookings Institution as a best-in-class investor, mentor, and economic development partner for young technology companies. Working alongside industry partners and leading research and academic institutions across the globe, the Science Center has supported over 1,000 early-stage companies. Today, the organization advances healthcare innovation from idea to the marketplace through startup support services and building inclusive STEM pathways for Philadelphia youth and adults. For more information visit sciencecenter.org or follow us at @UCScienceCenter.