Tech firms from diverse backgrounds ‘touch down’ on virtual US trade mission

Neil McKay, CEO of Endless Gain
X The Business Desk

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Black, Asian and mixed background tech entrepreneurs from Greater Manchester and London will join a five-day virtual North American trade mission starting today (June 7).

The mission involves 15 companies who will meet with corporates and start-ups to explore new investment and export opportunities and accelerate their expansion plans in the US market.

Hosted in partnership between The Growth Company’s Global Scale-Up programme and London & Partners Mayor’s International Business programme, and the first in a series of events held by the two UK tech hubs, the REACH trade mission aims to build cross-border collaboration and advance an inclusive transatlantic community of diverse leaders.

The trade mission is also part of a wider commitment by Greater Manchester and London to support companies from a range of diverse communities.

More diverse and inclusive businesses generate greater economic growth and benefit to society, with a recent McKinsey study revealing that diverse companies are more likely to outperform less diverse ones on profitability. However, research from the British Business Bank found Black and Asian business owners face significant barriers when starting and scaling their businesses.

One of the major challenges facing Black, Asian and mixed background founders is access to venture capital funding, an essential ingredient for business growth. According to Extend Ventures, only 1.7% of venture capital investment in the UK between 2009 and 2019 went to founders from Black, East Asian, South Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds, while Black female entrepreneurs received 0.02% of funding overall.

Similarly, in 2020 US companies raised record levels of venture capital at just under $150bn, but only $1bn went to Black or African-American start-up founders, less than one per cent of total funding.

Investment in under-represented founders provides a huge untapped opportunity and the mission aims to help unlock the enormous value Black, Asian and mixed background businesses from Greater Manchester and London can add to the North American economy.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I am very proud that we are creating this opportunity for underrepresented entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester and showcasing the diverse talent and innovation that is at the heart of our city region.

“Greater Manchester is the fastest growing digital and tech hub in Europe, and through our work at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, The Growth Company and the Global Scale-Up programme, we are doing everything we can to support these sectors, tackle digital inequalities, and make sure that this growth benefits all of our places and communities.”

He added: “Together with the Mayor of London and our partners in the capital, we hope this virtual trade mission will strengthen the links between our city regions, and offer a platform for black, Asian and mixed background tech entrepreneurs to promote their businesses and forge exciting new global connections.”

The 15 businesses joining the virtual trade mission include Bolton-based audio-visual design and build specialist AVM Solutions and Manchester-based marketing agency Endless Gain, who specialise in helping brands create the best ecommerce experiences. Stretford tech company XUM Enterprise, which sources IC-chips from recycling centres and refurbishes them for use in computing and gaming products, will also join the mission.

Neil McKay, chief executive at Endless Gain, said: “I’m incredibly proud to have been accepted onto the first ever REACH virtual trade mission. This initiative offers a tremendous opportunity to build new partnerships, expand our network of potential US investors and corporates, and explore possible routes to expansion in North America.”

Krishan Mistry, MD of AVM Solutions

Krishan Mistry, managing director at AVM Solutions, said: “We are really excited to be a part of this new trade mission and very much looking forward to meeting North American corporations to build relationships and establish new trade opportunities for DigiSpace in the US.”

Delegates will take part in investor roundtables and online networking events with corporations such as network operator Comcast and supermarket giant Walmart.

Last month, Comcast announced it would award $1m in grants to 100 Black, Indigenous and people of colour-owned small businesses in some American states.

The series of events will include sessions where delegates will meet founders to share their learned experiences. Speakers include First Boulevard Bank – a Black-owned digital bank with a focus on financially empowering Black America, which has just raised £5m in seed funding.

Global scale-up programme manager at GC Business Growth Hub, Anna Carson Parker, said: “We are continuing to support our businesses in realising their international expansion plans and this mission is part of a wider commitment to help companies from a range of diverse communities.

“We are really excited about what the mission and London partnership will do for the Greater Manchester ecosystem. The mission and Global Scale-up programme show that there are great opportunities for businesses to grow internationally, despite the economic impact of COVID – Greater Manchester is very much open for international business.”

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