There is a major discrepancy in funding between Black founders and their non-Black peers. According to Harvard Business Review, Black founders receive roughly 1 percent of venture capital funding. And a 2021 survey conducted by Crunchbase revealed that despite Black startup founders quadrupling in the past year, only 1.2 percent of a record $147 billion of VC invested in the nation’s startups in the first half of 2021 went to Black entrepreneurs. Bubble, a no-code solution to developing web applications, is hoping to change that. 

This month, the venture-backed company is launching Immerse, a 10-week, fully-funded, virtual residency program specifically designed for Black founders. Bubble says their goal is to empower these entrepreneurs to become their own product managers and Chief Technology Officers. “For 15-20 some odd years, the biggest barrier for a lot of entrepreneurs was coding. If you know how to code or not makes a difference in how fast you get to market,” says Nichole Bestman, a former Immerse program participant who now leads the program. The founder of Shipfair Global, a startup that matches shippers with travelers, says Black founders also have the additional hurdle of being overlooked for funding to be able to scale their business. 

“From the very beginning of Bubble, I would say there has been this level of inclusion embedded in the company. Immerse is a fairly new program but it’s actually really authentic to why they started some 10 years ago.” Participants of the bootcamp-accelerator hybrid will face a rigorous curriculum seeking to equip them with the core skills for building a web app and scaling their business. During the course, entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to network with professionals and investors in the tech space and have a chance to win cash prizes. 

Bestman says that attending the nearly three month program allowed her to advance a company she had been working on for years, 18 months of which she spent attempting a build for an app. By the time of her graduation from Immersion, that app was complete, a possibility Bestman says is unique to Bubble. “There's so many different programs out there that are like this, but we call ourselves a product pre-accelerator because there are a lot of pre-accelerators out there that prepare you for other rigorous accelerators to help you with your business model and all those specific things. And while we touch on some of those business fundamentals, as far as we know we were one of the first ones out there just to specify that when you leave this program, you will have a fully functional working app.”Having a high quality application ready to go is a formidable step in the right direction for Black founders hoping to connect with VC funding.

Applications for the Immerse Program for Black entrepreneurs are now being accepted through October 4.