Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced Amazon Catalytic Capital, a new initiative to invest $150 million in venture capital (VC) funds, accelerators, incubators, and venture studios that provide funding to entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, primarily at the pre-seed/seed stage of venture capital funding. The company will invest in funds that focus on Black, Latino, Indigenous, women, and LGBTQIA+ founders. Amazon expects to support more than 10 funds and over 200 companies through the next year.
“We’ve seen incredibly innovative ideas from underrepresented entrepreneurs—from companies offering inclusive health services for women, to startups helping companies mitigate climate impact for underserved communities—and we’re convinced that an inclusive investment strategy leads to better returns and innovation. We want to ensure that these companies and their founders have the same access to capital as anyone else,” said Peter Krawiec, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide corporate development. “We hope that our investment will be catalytic—sparking a force-multiplying effect by inspiring others to invest in these companies, fostering inclusion and innovation, positively impacting communities, and creating generational wealth and financial return.”
In addition to capital, the companies in the funds’ portfolios will receive mentorship from Amazon executives and gain access to resources to support their business and technical strategy. Amazon teams will also work with the startups to identify partnership and product collaboration opportunities that could accelerate their growth.
Historically, underrepresented founders have had less access to startup venture capital and greater difficulties in securing funding to bring ideas to fruition. Studies consistently show that Black, Latino, women, and LGBTQIA+ startup founders are underrepresented across the total number of funded startups. According to PitchBook, women founders received 2% of U.S. venture capital funding in 2021. Similarly, Black-founded and Latino-founded startups attracted only 1% and 2% of U.S. venture capital funding respectively last year as reported by Crunchbase News. Research shows that these inequities create a negative ripple effect for underrepresented entrepreneurs, including reduced access to networks, mentors, and sponsors. Despite these challenges, diverse and inclusive teams are 75% more likely to see ideas become products and 70% more likely to serve new categories.
Through this initiative, Amazon has invested in the following funds:
- Collide Capital — Collide Capital is a Black-owned seed and pre-seed venture capital fund led by two founders under the age of 35: Aaron Samuels, who co-founded AfroTech, and Brian Hollins, who is a founding Board Member of BLCK VC. To date, Collide Capital has backed over 40 companies, of which 80%+ are led by Black, Latino, and/or female founders.
- Elevate Future Fund — Elevate Future Fund, which is overseen by Energy Impact Partners (EIP), focuses on increasing funding to underrepresented founders working on solutions to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and clean energy future. It will also make investments in companies that are led by underrepresented entrepreneurs, are empowering diverse talent, and/or are creating economic opportunity for distressed or disadvantaged communities. Elevate will also collaborate closely with Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, which invests in emerging climate technology companies.
- Share Ventures — Share Ventures is a Los Angeles-based venture fund and venture foundry focused on human performance. Share focuses on solving problems by creating and investing in innovative companies that unlock human potential, in categories including health tech, future of work, people tech, fintech, transportation, and purpose tech (companies facilitating impact and change).
- Techstars Rising Stars Fund — With its first investments in 2022, the Rising Stars Fund is a pre-seed venture capital fund investing in underrepresented founders of color in the U.S. The fund is part of the Techstars investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Investors from the VC funds supported by Amazon have supported hundreds of underrepresented startup founders. With Amazon’s investments, these VC funds expect to back hundreds more companies and, in turn, help create more jobs and unlock economic growth in historically underserved communities.
“We are focused on addressing financial inclusion across the globe, and Collide Capital has been an investor in us from the early days. Collide has helped us to shape our vision and opened up access to future rounds of funding,” said the founder and CEO of fintech startup EMTECH, Carmelle Cadet. “EMTECH discovered a unique value proposition in rebuilding central banking infrastructure for the Web3 era. As a Black woman-founded tech company, having Collide getting excited about our vision was critical to our journey. We are better with them as partners, and I am excited to see how Amazon is supporting them to help even more entrepreneurs like me.”
“Our collaboration with the team at Amazon was born out of our shared passion for innovation in key areas that improve the human experience at scale. We are aligned with Amazon’s customer obsession and grateful to be learning and collaborating with them to build a portfolio of game changing companies,” said Hamet Watt, managing partner at Share Ventures.
Amazon Catalytic Capital is the latest in a series of Amazon-sponsored initiatives to boost and support early stage, underrepresented entrepreneurs. Amazon Web Services recently launched the AWS Impact Accelerator, investing $30 million in a series of programs designed to help high-potential, pre-seed startups led by underrepresented founders succeed. Amazon chose North American startups to be part of its 2022 Black Founders Build with Alexa cohort, each receiving a $100,000 Alexa Fund investment, as well as technology support. Additionally, in 2021, Amazon committed $150 million to its Black Business Accelerator, an initiative to help Black business owners succeed as sellers in Amazon’s stores.