Michael B. Jordan may be a Hollywood heartthrob, but the son of Newark, New Jersey has not forsaken his roots. Earlier this year the star of the upcoming Journal for Jordan announced a new initiative benefitting the Brick City (Newark, NJ), HBCUs, and aspiring business founders with a link to these distinguished institutions.
The Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic, taking place for the first time this weekend at the Prudential Center in Newark, is a partnership between the investment management firm, Jordan, Serena Williams’s investment company, Serena Ventures, and MaC Venture Capital, a seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in tech startups focused on advancing and shifting the culture. On Saturday four HBCU teams—Hampton University versus North Carolina Central University and Howard University versus North Carolina A&T University— will compete in a nationally televised doubleheader airing on TNT.
“As the founding sponsor of the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic, we are excited to share our longstanding commitment to financial education with HBCU students and student-athletes who strive to combine excellence both in the classroom and in sports,” says Obi Akunwafor, Co-Chair of the Invesco Black Professionals Network and Invesco Head of Counterparty Risk.
Invesco QQQ’s support of the Legacy Classic goes beyond the court. Announced during the event will be the winner of a startup pitch competition, that was introduced this fall, and gave aspiring business founders, who are either current HBCU students or alumni of these schools, the chance to be mentored by experts in the venture capital world, and to be awarded up to $1,000,000 in structured safe investments.
Akunwafor emphasizes that as one of the partner organizations supporting the Startup Pitch competition, they are excited to be engaging with entrepreneurial business leaders to help sow the seeds for their future success. The three pitch finalists met with five Invesco senior leaders, who shared their deep expertise and knowledge in venture capital and go-to-market strategies.
In the United States, Black businesses owners are the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, yet access to capital to help these businesses flourish remains a significant challenge. Thankfully, a racial reckoning in the fallout from the murder of George Floyd has led to a considerable increase in financial resources for these startups, and the Legacy Classic is yet another opportunity to produce more Black business founders. By centering HBCUs, their students, and alumni, the Legacy Classic is building upon a rich legacy of HBCU attendees who have left “the yard” and found notable success.
As it stands, HBCUs account for just 3 percent of America’s colleges, and yet they award roughly a quarter of the bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students. They serve as intellectual spaces of thought and discovery, fostering entrepreneurial thinking and catapulting innovative ideas. “HBCUs are an integral part of our educational ecosystem and have long been centers of entrepreneurial excellence,” says Serena Ventures General Partner Alison Stillman, CFA. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Michael B. Jordan and MaC ventures on highlighting the brilliant student and alumni founders.”
Invesco is working alongside Serena Ventures on ways to extend their guidance to the three finalists chosen for the pitch competition. Akunwafor says the business is already looking forward to continuing to “impact the lives of future business leaders” at next year’s competition.