This past August, reBOOT Canada sponsored the first annual Nobellum Innovathon, supporting young black entreprenuers. We spoke with Malcolm Wright, Director of Operations for Nobellum and founder at Wrightway Education, about the organization, the Innovathon event and the reBOOT Canada-supplied laptop giveaway. Read more about Nobellum, it’s incredible initiatives and the success of this partnership.
Our reBOOT Canada team was thrilled to be a part of such an incredible initiative, bringing young people together and sparking change in our own community, to deliver training, funding and mentorship for aspiring black entrepreneurs.
reBOOT Canada’s Executive Director Francisco Rota had this to say about the partnership:
“We were introduced to Nobellum through a great alumnus of reBOOT Canada, Brian Provo, who got involved while studying law at Windsor. Nobellum had set up a robust partnerships with the U of T and built a top drawer leadership team, so we feel pretty fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Innovathon and look forward to Innovathons to come”
1. Tell us more about Nobellum, and how the idea of creating this incredible organization came to be?
Nobellum is a team of BIPOC leaders that pooled their resources together and strategized for socio-economic upliftment within the black community. After the George Floyd atrocity in the summer of 2020, Black bodies, and the disparities our communities face were televised. With an influx of capital and commitments made for the Black community, we recognized the need to be organized and intentional with our mission, vision, and mandate.
Our vision is to inspire a generation of leaders, educators, and professionals to collaborate as we define the future of innovation and science. We have a mandate of supporting the start-up of 100 Black-owned businesses in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by the year 2025. To help achieve this mandate, we have partnered with the University of Toronto Scarborough to create the Nobellum True Blue Fund which is a pool of startup funding dedicated to supporting Black-led businesses.
Overall, we aim to foster a cohesive Business-2-Business network for the youth that will create jobs, provide access to education and empower graduates with business-oriented career opportunities.
2. Your annual Innovathon took place earlier this year, where young professionals showcase their ideas for a chance to win up to $31,000 in start-up funds. How did this idea come about, and why did you feel it was important to create an event like this?
Our 2022 Innovathon was delivered in partnership with the U of T Scarborough accelerators The BRIDGE and The Hub – together with the Black Founders Network and the broader U of T Entrepreneurship community – to deliver training, funding and mentorship for aspiring entrepreneurs. We built a platform that showcased 10 cutting-edge startups and awarded a total of $31,000 to the top 4 winners of our Innovathon Pitch.
We recognized that one of the many barriers that Black entrepreneurs go through, is access to capital when starting a business. As a team of entrepreneurs, in our own right, we knew that these businesses could benefit significantly from any sum of money prior to starting their venture.
It was important to create an event like this because there is a dire need to showcase STEM to the Black community so that it looks a lot less intimidating. It was a fun event with music, dance and poetry to make the youth feel like this is a space which is accessible to them. Our goal for delivering the pitch this way is to increase black representation in STEM, as well as to encourage the black communities active participation in the digital revolution. We were able to uncover some hidden gems from the Black community that only needed a chance.
3. What was your experience like working with reBOOT Canada, and what made this pairing a good fit?
Nobellum had an amazing experience with reBOOT Canada. Francisco and the rest of the reBOOT Canada team matched the energy that we were trying to bring to the event. reBOOT Canada and Nobellum share a similar appreciation for the creating of technology and bringing that access to communities that do not have that privilege. With similar values and principles, reBOOT Canada was a key sponsor that reassured us that we were on the right path. We are truly grateful for the opportunity of collaborating with reBOOT Canada and look forward to future opportunities to grow this partnership.
4. Why is it important to have community partners like reBOOT Canada participate in events like Innovathon?
reBOOT Canada’s mission is “to enable all Canadians to become fully functioning members of society through providing subsidized access to technology” to non-profit organizations and charities. It is important for community partners like reBOOT Canada to actively participate in events like the Innovathon because it shows solidarity to positive initiatives that spark change. By being a strong ally, reBOOT Canada helped to amplify our mandate through their influence in the technology realm and their continued support of events like this is needed to strengthen other non-profits’ reach.
5. What is one of the biggest challenges that young, Black youth face when it comes to tech and entrepreneurship?
One of the biggest challenges would be lack of representation in STEM and Entrepreneurship. Students not seeing enough people who look like them, teaching their STEM classes or working in the field has been a big challenge. Unfortunately, the Black community in particular is behind when it comes to participating in STEM-related spaces despite it being the most dominant industry now and for years to come.
We would like to ensure that Black youth recognize that STEM and entrepreneurship are feasible lifestyles that can bring an abundance of opportunity for all those around them. By empowering the startups that come out of our Innovathon, we hope that the younger generations will be able to recognize that anything is possible when given the opportunity to showcase their talents.
6. Your mandate is to have launched at least 100 Black owned start-ups in STEM by 2025. Can you share more about how you plan to achieve this?
We have created an Economic Development Program that is designed to create an ecosystem to support the first 100. This program includes three main areas of impact (1) Innovathon pitch (2) Innovator Bridging Program (3) NobelHub app. The program is partnered with educational institutions, accelerators and several community leaders from the Black community who are contributing members of the ecosystem.
By recognizing the disparity regarding funding opportunities for Black startups, the Innovathon is a way to jump start the businesses we uncover. The innovator Bridging Program is designed to ensure that our entrepreneurs have all the information they need to not only start a business, but also make them sustainable. Longevity is key when creating communal wealth. Now that we have successfully completed our first Innovathon, we call on all of our partners and allies to join this cause to empower the Black community. This year alone we had over 300 participants that were looking to bring their ideas to life. We hope that as we grow as an organization, the capacity to help all those to come our way grows as well. The support comes not only from the new Black-owned businesses, but also the opportunity to showcase the existing Black talent that is often overlooked.
7. What has surprised you about some of the young entrepreneurs and professionals that have come through the Innovathon and other Nobellum initiatives?
One of the most surprising things is the level of eagerness to learn and be more actively involved within the community. Unfortunately, there are certain negative stigmas associated with the emerging generation such as being disengaged and a lot more self-absorbed. We found that our new entrepreneurs felt the need to connect and find mentorship to put themselves a step ahead.
8. What is your biggest piece of advice for any young entrepreneur out there?
Our biggest piece of advice would be to connect, connect, connect. All successful entrepreneurs had someone that was able to open a door of opportunity for them. Nobellum has created an ecosystem for that very reason. The more people you have in your network, the more opportunity you will have to capitalize on the assets around you.
reBOOT Canada is honored to be a part of the Innovathon, and to be able to support young black entrepreneurs. We look forward to seeing Nobellum grow, and look forward to being an active partner in their initiatives in the future as we continue to foster and grow change within our community.