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BIG NUMBERS: #BIGATL Cohort 2 Demographic Data

Each year, digitalundivided (DID) releases an infographic highlighting the demographics of each cohort of our BIG Incubator program, based in downtown Atlanta. The BIG Incubator received 120 Black and Latinx women applicants for 20 spots in our incubator program, an increase of 25% from last year.



Applicants mostly came from these cities: Atlanta, New York City, Washington D.C., Detroit, and Los Angeles. Except for Detroit, these were all the top cities from last year’s applications as well. We also had a number of applications from outside the US (UK, El Salvador, and Jamaica).

While the largest single group of founders came from Atlanta, over 70% of the applicants came from outside Atlanta. The strength of the BIG brand and our reputation of using human-centered design in building out our program has created a strong pipeline of applicants into our program. This allows us to circumvent the challenges others have in finding and developing Black and Latinx women founders.


A majority of applicants were at the idea stage. Most had co-founders (86%). However, only 36% of them had experienced working in a startup before, and less than 5% of them have raised money (ranging from $200,000 to $850,000.).

In contrast, of the 2016 applicants, 64% have co-founders, while 68% have worked in a startup before. Reflecting the difference in target company stages, 38% of last year’s cohort already had sales.


The women came from many different schools across the country, with the following producing the most applicants for this year’s cohort : New York University, Georgia State University, Harvard University, and University of Pennsylvania.

Our applicants are highly educated, with 37% of them holding a bachelor’s degree, 24% holding a master’s, and 3% holding postgraduate degrees. 18% hold an associate’s degree, while the remaining 18% opted not to disclose their education.


The applicants worked in a diverse number of fields, ranging from photography and aesthetics to accountancy and project management. We had therapists, students, chefs, civil engineers, diplomats, and technicians. A little over 10% had technical skills, often through working as a developer/software engineer.


BIG clearly demonstrate that there are a significant number of Black and Latinx women interested in building sustainable, high-growth companies, IF you know how to reach them.

To learn more about digitalundivided and BIG Incubator, please visit us at or email us

Medium: How to Gain Mainstream Success

The easiest path to success is to model yourself after those who are already successful.

Find someone who is where you want to be and use his or her path to success as a roadmap for yourself.

Here’s a Story…

In the early 1990s, a middling talent rapper with a few hits and a Grammy (the first ever in the rap category), found himself in the most clichéd of situations — he owed close to $3 million dollars in unpaid back taxes to the IRS.

Now, this was the 1990s. Hip-hop was, well, in transition, on it’s way from an east coast underground music phenomenon to the the global force of today. Rappers weren’t the multi-hyphenated business moguls they are now. Jay-Zwas still a part-time rapper/full-time drug dealer. Sean “Puffy” Combs was still an intern at Uptown Records. 50 cent didn’t have a dime. The only (legal) way for a rapper to raise that kind of money was to go into acting and, fortunately for this rapper, he was presented with the opportunity to star in a television show somewhat based on his life.

The show was a “fish out of water” situation comedy, centered on his character moving from his urban east coast hometown (“the hood”) to a high-end enclave of Los Angeles (“so NOT the hood”) to live with his mother’s rich younger sister and her bougie family.

The show became an instant hit.

But the rapper, who was very smart and prior to becoming a rap star flirted with the idea of going to an Ivy League school, knew that the real money in entertainment wasn’t made by TV stars (This was BK — before Kardashian. The most famous Kardashian at this time was trying to help his bestie beat a murder rap). The real, real money in 1990s America was made by movie stars. And since he was a rapper, meaning he had no shortage of ego, he didn’t want to be just any movie star, but “THE” movie star.

So he began.

Now, not many rappers in the 1990s were able to make the transition from music to film. The most successful at this point was the ever charismatic Tupac Shakur, but Tupac had some formal training, attending a performing arts high school, ironically, with our rap star/budding leading man’s future wife.

So, the rapper started out slow. His first major starring role in a movie was in a small budget drama based on an acclaimed play. Critics LOVED the movie.

“A rare sight: a sharply observed Hollywood satire of poignant ideas,” 
- Random Movie Critic.

His character was gay — remember this was the 90s when machismo was full blast in rap. It showed his range as an actor and showed he was willing to take risks.

But small budget dramas don’t make you THE movie star.

Logically, he should have followed in the footsteps of the black male movie icons of that time — Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor — who starred in successful comedies with a slight action bent like Stir Crazy48hrs and Beverly Hills Cop. Since he was already a TV comedy star, he could seamlessly transition to become a movie comedy star. A black guy, as a comedian, people could understand. But a black guy as a mass market superhero, that was a new idea.

But just like drama films don’t make an actor THE movie star, neither do comedies with a few action scenes thrown in for good measure. No full fledged comedy film was in the top ten grossing films of the 1980s. In fact, seven of the top ten grossing movies of the decade were action films, and all of the top grossing films of the 1980s fit into one of two genres — action or science fiction (Sci-Fi).

Top Ten Highest Grossing Movies of the 1980s

At that time, and remember this is the early 1990s, THE biggest stars in terms of box office gross were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, and Harrison Ford. Schwarzenegger was killing it at the box office in the TerminatorPredator, and other movies that deftly mixed Sci-Fi with action and a small dash of humor. The same with Willis and the Die Hard franchise. Ford was coming off a decade of iconic roles in movies that changed entertainment — the Star Wars Trilogy and Indiana Jones movies. Ford’s combination of winning matinee idol good looks with a penchant for a good quip led him to star in 5 of the 10 biggest grossing movies of the 1980s, all a mix of action, with a dash of comedy (and a lot of Sci-Fi in the case of Star Wars).

So, if your goal is to be THE (male) Movie Star, it’s pretty clear what genre you should focus on — action — and if you can add in a bit of Sci-Fi with a dash of comedy, you have yourself a solid formula for success.

So, the rapper studied the careers of Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Cruise, noting the roles they selected, how much each movie grossed, and even noting the time of year the films were released.

He chose his next film, a buddy action comedy set in a beach city known for having a ton of very good-looking people, based on this criteria. It was a solid hit, making 10 times the box office gross of his critically acclaimed drama. However, this film was missing the Sci-Fi angle, and he knew to truly break out, he would need that.

His next, next, film had all the elements of the winning formula: Sci-Fi, lots of action, and a few iconic comedic situations.

This was the movie that turned him into THE movie star.

The film went on to become, at the time, the second highest grossing film of ALL time. ALL TIME. He applied the formula to his other movie choices throughout the 90s and into the early part of the millennia, becoming one of the top film stars of all time, with his combination of action and Sci-Fi comedy bringing in over $2.5 billion dollars.

Oh yeah, he also dropped his rap moniker and started using his real name.

Will Smith.

It’s Time to Innovate Inclusion… The #ProjectDiane Report is Here
Kelechi Anyadiegwu, Founder of Zuvaa and staff

Kelechi Anyadiegwu, Founder of Zuvaa and staff

60,000+ startups examined.
Over 380 Black women-led companies submitted.
88 Black women-led startups identified and studied.

Today is the release of the #ProjectDiane Report. For the past year, digitalundivided has studied, examined, surveyed, and uncovered the unique challenges and triumphs facing Black women-led startups.

On a personal note, I’m heartened by the discussion #ProjectDiane has fostered. From HackerNews to Twitter to US Small Business Administration, people are talking about how we move past the current dialogue and actions that, if we’re being honest, is the same things that were done 50 years ago.

It’s time for Tech to Innovate Inclusion… And DID is doing just that…

Kelley O Williams, Founder of The Honey Bee Company

Kelley O Williams, Founder of The Honey Bee Company

We’re using the insights gleaned from this study to craft initiatives focused on increasing the number of successful Black and Latina women entrepreneurs (aka “Founders”) in tech. And you should too! If you’re serious about supporting Black and Latina women Founders, we invite you to use these key findings to inform your efforts. If you’re an organization that wants to innovate inclusion, then reach out us at talk @

#ProjectDiane Key Findings:

Black women are extremely entrepreneurial and lead startups. The 88 Black women-led startups in #ProjectDiane are a part of the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. (over 1.5 million businesses owned by Black women). These businesses generate over $44 billion a year in revenue.


Black women-led startups are undercapitalized compared to other startups. Black women startup Founders raise $36,000 on average, while the average (mostly white male-led) failed startup raises $1.3 million.

Black women Founders are well-educated.Ninety-two percent of the Founders in #ProjectDiane have at least an undergraduate degree. More than 60% of the Founders are alumni of top 20 ranked schools, and 67% of the Founders who raised over $1MM in funding graduated from Ivy League institutions.


Lack of diversity within tech companies leads to a lack of diversity in startup founders. Nine of the 11 (82%) Founders who raised at least $1 million in outside funding worked for a tech company at some point in their career.


There are few Black women in top tech accelerator programs. Thirty-four percent of Black women Founders in #Project Diane were a part of an accelerator program at some point in the development of their companies. Those who were in these programs were almost 40% more likely to receive funding (83%) than Founders who had not been involved in an accelerator program (45%).

What’s the solution?

Zuhairah Washington, Founder of Kahnoodle, now General Manager Uber DC

Zuhairah Washington, Founder of Kahnoodle, now General Manager Uber DC

Inclusion of Black women Founders, and other diverse founders, requires bold leadership from those who have a vested interest in their success: foundations with an economic empowerment focus, individuals with a deep connection to diverse communities, and government and civic organizations who serve diverse populations.

We want you to join us in solving this problem! Please send us a note to talk @ if you’re interested in writing about the report, we’ll send you a complimentary copy.

Read our discussion series on #ProjectDiane

We would like to thank Elissa Murphy, Chris Carfi and the team at Godaddy for their support of this important work.

Note: there were two decimal errors in the original report. .2% of venture deals from 2012–2014 were for Black Women startups and Black women Startups are 4% of women led startups.