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Chicago:Blend and GET Cities Scale Program to Increase Opportunities for Aspiring VCs From Underrepresented Backgrounds

After a pilot project incubated by GET Cities' Tech Equity Working Group, Chicago:Blend will launch bi-annual programming to advance diversity & equity within Chicago's tech ecosystem.

CHICAGO, March 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Chicago:Blend announced the launch of the Chicago Venture Fellows, a program that was initially incubated at GET Cities in 2021. The program is designed to help aspiring venture capital professionals from underrepresented backgrounds break into the industry in Chicago, which is 78 percent white and 66 percent men. The bi-annual program will run in four-month cohorts, offering participants an opportunity to gain the skills and build the investment track record needed to position them for full-time roles in venture capital and help diversify the sector in Chicago.

"Companies and organizations that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion recruit the best teams, build better products, and produce stronger financial results. Chicago Venture Fellows is a product of our strategy to build a more diverse venture capital talent pipeline and welcome more people into the city's tech community who might otherwise opt out," said Joey Mak, Executive Director, Chicago:Blend.

The Chicago Venture Fellows was piloted last year within the GET Cities Tech Equity Working Group, a rolling cohort of Chicago accelerators, incubators, and funds, established to identify, pilot, and scale solutions that work to build a more just and inclusive start-up economy across Chicago, GET Cities' other two cities, and ultimately the country. The pilot was initially spearheaded by World Business Chicago, Impact Engine, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, The Garage at Northwestern University, the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago, Techstars Chicago, and Mox.E. With ongoing support from GET Cities and World Business Chicago, Chicago:Blend will lead the program and train up to 20 fellows in 2022.

"We built the Tech Equity Working Group to bring people, resources, organizations, and ideas from across the tech ecosystem in Chicago together to align on creating more equity in the industry by collaboratively building a more robust and effective series of paths and conditions for BIPOC and women, trans, and non-binary people to increase access to capital. As the cohort continues to adapt, we're so excited that this initial pilot proved so impactful and has found a permanent home at Chicago:Blend. Our goal at GET Cities is to catalyze the ecosystem, so this is really exciting to see this program grow and expand," said Elle Ramel, Director, GET Cities Chicago.

Participants in Chicago Venture Fellows will be tasked with sourcing companies for potential venture capital investment. The program provides Fellows with a stipend, admission into Cohort 10 of VC University ONLINE (produced by NVCA, Venture Forward, and UC Berkeley) for formal venture finance education, one-on-one mentorship, ongoing professional development, opportunities to learn from Chicago's top venture capitalists and tech leaders, and a finder's fee for any deals they source that receive venture funding within six months of completing the program. Each cohort consists of 10 Fellows. This year, Chicago:Blend will conduct two cohorts?a summer cohort from May-August, and a fall cohort from September-December, for 20 Fellows. Prospective participants must apply and be accepted into the program (learn more below).

Applications for Chicago Venture Fellows are open to aspiring venture capitalists who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color) and/or from marginalized genders (women, non-binary, etc.) who have at least two years of work experience or are currently enrolled in graduate school. Ideal applicants should demonstrate that they have some relationships with founders in Chicago's tech ecosystem.

"World Business Chicago is committed to catalyzing inclusive growth across all sectors of our economy and throughout our 77 neighborhoods. While we are pleased to see record-breaking growth and fundraising of Chicago-based startups in 2021, we are very aware of the severe lack of representation of women and people of color in the venture community at large. It is why we are proud to support Chicago:Blend and the Chicago Venture Fellows program, driving diversification of the VC workforce in Chicago," said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago, and Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago.

The value of Chicago Venture Fellows spans beyond underrepresented individuals aspiring to enter venture capital. This program will also benefit Chicago founders and startups who stand to gain increased exposure and access to venture capital, as well as investors seeking access to high-quality deal flow.

To learn more about Chicago Venture Fellows or to apply for the upcoming cohort, visit: www.chicagoblend.org.

To learn more about the GET Cities Tech Equity Working Group, visit: www.getcities.org/tewg.

About Chicago:Blend
Chicago:Blend is a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded in 2018 by a group of local venture capitalists to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in Chicago's VC and startup community. Chicago:Blend does this work by publishing demographic data about Chicago's VC and startup workforce and by providing education and capacity-building resources to the VC ecosystem.

About GET Cities
GET Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, trans, and non-binary people in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the United States. Launched in 2020, GET Cities is led by SecondMuse and Break Through Tech, in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates. Now in Chicago, the DC Metro Area, and Miami, GET Cities will leverage collaboration across its national ecosystem of city hubs to drive positive social and economic change.

Joey Mak
Executive Director
[email protected]


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