Partnership Aims to Increase Diversity Among Venture Capitalists
The partnership funds the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Cohort, through which students invest capital in early-stage food and agriculture companies applying ground-breaking technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address global food challenges.
Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Program Empowers Students to Become Ag-Tech Impact Investors
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. And WASHINGTON (March 1, 2023) – The Kirchner Impact Foundation (KIF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced today a $1 million collaboration over five-years to increase diversity within the venture capital industry by training students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to become agriculture technology venture capitalists. The partnership funds the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Cohort, through which students invest capital in early-stage food and agriculture companies applying ground-breaking technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address global food challenges.
The Kirchner Fellowship provides high-level mentoring from networks of investors to a cohort of university students. Fellows are trained to evaluate agriculture business investments and given discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges. Fellows work directly with the KIF leadership team and its network of thought leaders to engage in a series of face-to-face and online educational experiences that expose them to real-world, early-stage investment opportunities. Students then evaluate investments and have the discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges.
“This partnership provides real-world experience to HBCU students, who are underrepresented in the venture capital space, to be the next leaders to make critical agriculture business investment decisions,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director. “By learning from both agriculture and venture capital thought leaders, these students are empowered to help transform global food production toward climate-smart solutions with their investment decisions.”
The program is accepting applications for 2023-2024 academic year through April 30, 2023. HBCU graduate students or undergraduate students with professional business experience are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be self-motivated, intellectually curious and passionate about the power of impact-oriented, for-profit businesses to address global food security challenges. Application information is available on the Kirchner Fellowship website. Interested applicants are encouraged to participate in an informational webinar on April 5, 2023, at 2 p.m. ET and must register to attend. A recording of the webinar will be available on the KIF and FFAR websites shortly afterwards.
“A successful Kirchner Fellow is a student who stays curious, remains a lifelong learner, self-starter and enjoys nurturing relationships with founders, investors and other stakeholders,” said 2021-2022 Fellow Martin Adu-Boahene. “This program is empowering HBCU students to become trailblazers in impact investing.”
KIF established the Kirchner Fellowship program nine years ago to strengthen impact investing networks in areas underserved by capital markets by training and empowering diverse young investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies. KIF launched the HBCU cohort two years ago, with support from FFAR, to foster diversity and inclusion within the food and agriculture venture capital industry. Students selected through the current application process will comprise the third HBCU cohort.
“We are immensely proud of the partnership between KIF and FFAR,” said Hattie Brown, KIF co-manager. “This new five-year engagement is a testament to the success of the last four years of collaboration. As a result of this award, we will now be able to sustain our commitment to the communities in which we work, delivering programming to dozens of students and building an alumni base that will serve as a strong network for our Fellows throughout their careers.”
FFAR has supported the Kirchner Fellowship program since 2018. To date, program alumni across all cohorts represent over 55 institutions, 14 countries, gender parity and over $350,000 of investment capital deployed. Alumni have started their own businesses and work as investors or in adjacent industries.
In addition to the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Cohort, FFAR and KIF have agreed to provide up to an additional $1 million to establish another Kirchner Fellowship Program, the theme of which is still to be determined.
The Kirchner Fellowship is made possible through the support of the Kirchner Group, a leading values-based traditional merchant bank, FFAR and organizations like the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, as well as individual donors.
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