Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, and Sony Music UK, have announced a cohort of ten pioneering digital-first startups, to participate in the inaugural FutureScope Black Founders Programme. The programme will support Black British entrepreneurs in the digital entertainment space, and encourage the successful commercialisation of their innovative new solutions.
The announcement marks the beginning of the 16-week programme of activities that will provide each early-stage company with business and investment readiness support, drawing on Digital Catapult’s decade of experience supporting UK startups. Through mentorship, workshops and masterclasses, the programme will look to help each startup raise investment in the next six to nine months. In addition, half of the cohort businesses are led by women and half led by men.
Using advanced digital technologies such as distributed ledger technologies, artificial intelligence/machine learning, virtual and/or augmented reality, the cohort provides wide-reaching solutions for art, music, social media, retail and tourism. From a digital fine art gallery made possible by an extended reality (XR) immersive world, to an AI-powered social media platform designed to build a community of music lovers, the innovations at the centre of each business are created to transform the UK’s digital entertainment space and bring the sector into a new era.
Cashblack is a loyalty scheme rewarding people for shopping online with Black-owned businesses; Deya is building a platform to help Black creative talent find work; and Flossy helps artists and other creators sell ‘remixable’ merch to fans.
Happaning helps people preview events before going; Korda is building a community for songwriters, artists and producers; and Loud Parade is a sonic branding startup.
Meanwhile, Musircle is analysing people’s music tastes to help them find music and likeminded listeners; Nyangibo Gallery is a digital fine-art gallery; Stories & The City creates augmented-reality city tours; and Waves is selling beats as NFTs with plans to add creative AI music features.
Digital Catapult will deliver the FutureScope Black Founders Programme in partnership with Sony Music UK, with both partners having a long-standing tradition of promoting innovation within the UK’s creative industries. By focusing support toward Black tech entrepreneurs, the programme aims to provide them with knowledge and connections that can lead to future investment opportunities.
FutureScope is Digital Catapult’s deep tech acceleration support system for the UK’s leading tech innovators and businesses. The Black Founders Programme aims to make it easier for Black founders to raise venture capital and successfully scale their solutions, given that research from Atomico, an international investment firm, found that 62% of Black founders have found it increasingly hard to raise venture capital, with only 38 Black founders receiving venture capital funding between 2009 and 2019, just 0.24% of the total sum invested.
To offset costs to a business by participating in the programme, each startup will receive £3,000 as a financial contribution towards completing the programme. This also includes additional support from ‘Musiio by SoundCloud’.
To ensure long-lasting, positive impact is made for the founders and the UK Black tech community, the programme is further bolstered by support from expert consultants and mentors from across the entertainment and tech industries. This includes Sony Music UK and Soundcloud, and nine purpose-driven organisations that promote Black businesses and inclusive opportunities across the UK’s tech startup community.
Jessica Rushworth, Chief Strategy and Policy Officer, Digital Catapult, said: “This cohort is really one of the most exciting we have seen since the launch of FutureScope nearly two years ago. The range of solutions on show, built using advanced digital technologies, just highlights why companies like this are a key part of the future of the UK’s creative sector. The reality is that choosing 10 companies from a strong field of applicants was an incredibly tough process for the judging panel, but ultimately a very encouraging one, that really demonstrated to us the breadth of talent that exists within the UK’s Black tech community.”
Dorothy Hui, SVP Digital and Audience Development, Sony Music UK’s 4th Floor Creative, said: “We are thrilled to welcome an inspiring cohort of founders – all building businesses around creative uses of technology – to the FutureScope Black Founders programme. Sony Music is committed to helping improve diversity in digital entertainment and we look forward to supporting the entrepreneurs participating in the programme by providing access to industry expertise and our network. We can’t wait to see how the businesses develop through the programme.“
The programme culminates with a final showcase event in early November 2023, where the founders will have the opportunity to pitch to a select group of investors.