Drexel, UCity Science Center announce inaugural Raynier Seed Fund recipients – The Business Journals

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:
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.
Tribaja’s website launched in 2020 and offers job postings and other resources to those working in technology. It also helps connect underrepresented groups with equitable programs and workplaces.
Morales said she got the idea for Tribaja when she experienced bias while working in corporate finance.
“With Tribaja, we truly look for companies that have long-term DEI goals tied to their mission and values, and what that means is that they’re not just focusing on hiring, but they’re focused on building an inclusive workplace and culture, having career development and spaces where people feel like they belong,” she said. “I think that’s more important than any type of diversity metric that you can have.”
Since launching, Tribaja has established around 200 partnerships, has two full time employees, and two additional contractors.
So far Morales has bootstrapped Tribaja, as has fellow funding recipient Banks.
Currently a student at Drexel University where he’s in a graduate education improvement and transformation program, Banks is looking to launch a professional development website for teachers called the New Teacher Professional Learning Academy. He’s working with co-founder and CEO Jamal Encalade to do so.
Banks said the website would offer resources to help retain and support teachers at five charter schools in West Philadelphia to help them “better their professional learning, but also the results they have with students.” Anti-racism practices, learning strategies and creative arts are expected to make up part of the academy’s curriculum.
The pair expect to soft launch in January 2023.
Through the Raynier Seed Fund, founders will also receive resources and mentorship including from local organizations such as Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.
“It really takes a village to make an impact,” Kaido said. “We’re just really happy to be part of that community trying to make an impact.”
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