Four startup founders each received $25,000 to grow their companies as part of the inaugural Raynier Seed Fund.
The initiative, launched last year, announced the first funding recipients last Thursday. The program is a joint venture between Drexel University and the University City Sciences Center. The first round of capital was backed by Seattle-based Raynier Institute & Foundation. Founded in 1994, the nonprofit has donated more than $50 million to organizations in the Philadelphia and Seattle areas. Its focus is on organizations seeking to better humanity.
In total, the Raynier Institute & Foundation is contributing $500,000 to the seed fund, the remaining $400,000 of which will be given to subsequent cohorts over the next four years.
Focused on pre-seed companies, the fund prioritizes minority-owned startups, which historically receive less venture capital than their white counterparts.
“Capital is one variable within the equation for success for entrepreneurs,” said Shintaro Kaido, Drexel University’s vice provost for innovation and executive director of Drexel Applied Innovation
Applications for the Raynier Seed Fund program opened in April. It’s unclear how many people applied, but 10 startups made it to the final round where they pitched their concepts to the fund’s selection committee, which included individuals from Drexel and UCity Sciences.
The recipients of the first fund are:
- Kirthika Parmeswaran, founder of maternal mental health platform Vital Start Health, which has offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, New Jersey;
- Alberto Estrella, co-founder and CEO of real estate resource startup Knowledge to Own, based in Springfield, New Jersey;
- Kaleb Banks, chief operating officer of Washington, D.C.-based social impact consulting startup TDR Ideas LLP;
- and Shannon Morales, founder of Philadelphia-based talent connector Tribaja, which has since expanded to Richmond, Virginia.
The founders have different goals for the funds. Morales, for example, aims to use her $25,000 to help cover the cost of technological developments, a critical aspect to her company.