Pharrell Williams announces new charity Black Ambition to aid underrepresented entrepreneurs

"Marginalised people have faced long-standing barriers to success"

Pharrell Williams has unveiled a new non-profit initiative, Black Ambition, which will support Black and Latinx entrepreneurs.

The musician’s charity is said to be committed to levelling the playing field for non-white entrepreneurs by providing them with funding, opportunities, mentorships and access. As part of the launch on Tuesday (December 1), Williams announced two prize competitions: The Black Ambition HBCU Prize and The Black Ambition Prize.

Pharrell Williams performs in concert during the second annual Astroworld
Pharrell Williams performs in concert during the second annual Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 9, 2019 in Houston, Texas. CREDIT: Gary Miller/Getty Images

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The Black Ambition HBCU Prize, which is in partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBSUs), will offer prizes and mentorship for current and former students at HBCUs as prepare to establish businesses and ideas in areas including technology, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services.

Up to a $250,000 prize (£185,928) will be awarded to the grand winner of the Black Ambition HBCU Prize. Nine additional teams will receive smaller prizes.

Meanwhile, the other prize – The Black Ambition Prize – will offer a $1million (£774,722) prize to the top winner, and will also have nine additional teams receiving smaller prizes.

The requirements for the ventures range from having at least one founder or co-founder who identifies as Black/African/African American and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/Latinx, and teams for the former prize must include at least one current HBCU undergraduate or graduate student (full-time or part-time). See The Hollywood Reporter‘s full run-down of eligibility criteria here.

Williams said of the charity launch: “Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalised people have faced long-standing barriers to success.

“With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”

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In July 2021 the two competitions will culminate in teams competing for prizes by presenting to judges and investors. Feedback, mentorship, online resources, opportunities for media exposure and introductions to venture capitalists are some of the additional benefits on offer – depending on which level the competitors reach.

Financial backing for Black Ambition comes from Adidas, Chanel, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation, Tony’s Chocolonely and the Visa Foundation. Individual donors include Ron Conway and SV Angel and Jonah Peretti.

Artist, designer and philanthropist Virgil Abloh contributed to the Black Ambition logo and identity concept design, while the companies Mattel and Tony’s Chocolonely are releasinfg affiliated products with proceeds going to the charity.

Black Ambition’s advisory team includes Williams with support from The Bridgespan Group, which is a global non-profit organisation that advises mission-driven organisations.

In other news, Juicy J has said that he wants to take on Pharrell Williams in a Verzuz battle.

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