Bronx Startup Accelerator Becomes a Nonprofit

Amanda Septimo, Phil Shearer (middle) and Miguel Sanchez (left) plan for a pitch meeting in the MetaBronx office in Hunts Point. (Photo by Carmen Reinicke via Mott Haven Herald)

MetaBronx, located in Hunts Point, helps Bronx-based tech startups with their pitches to attract investors. Miguel Sanchez, who also runs the digital company Mass Ideation, co-founded the organization, along with Phil Shearer, in 2015 to support women and minority-owned startups in the borough – those, writes Mott Haven Herald’s Carmen Reinecke, “representing ‘the 99 percent,’ middle and low-income people.”

The initial group of businesses MetaBronx worked with yielded the first investment to a Bronx startup in 2016 when Access Bazaar, a digital wholesale distribution channel for bodegas, secured a $1 million investment from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, an investment group. However, even after Access Bazaar’s success, some investors still question the benefit of investing in a company founded in the poorest congressional district in the nation, so MetaBronx has shifted its strategy away from venture capital firms. The company has secured nonprofit status and will help its next group of startups receive funding through private sponsors and donors.

Included among the startups MetaBronx helps is Neture, an internet service provider that brings broadband to underserved neighborhoods. Like numerous other companies in the borough, they were “passed over because they were associated with the Bronx,” writes Reinecke.

“One investor said, ‘Listen, you need to find something for a group of people that are going to be able to pay for the service,’” said Marlin Jenkins, 44, founder and CEO of Neture. “There’s definitely groups of people who don’t see the benefit.”

MetaBronx knows that its goals are not completely aligned with investors who are focused on making money. But it is determined to move forward with or without venture capital.

Go to Mott Haven Herald to find out why, according to co-founder Shearer, venture capital money “is not the right money” as well as why Sanchez had reservations about turning MetaBronx into a nonprofit.

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