• Diversity
  • February 18, 2022

Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab

Increasing access to capital for companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs

Several years ago, Morgan Stanley’s team in the US came to a view that the market was missing the opportunity to find and finance businesses run by people of colour and women.

As a result, Morgan Stanley launched the Multicultural Innovation Lab in 2017, an in-house startup accelerator promoting financial inclusion and providing access to capital for early-stage technology and tech-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. 

Women and people of colour have long faced barriers starting their own businesses and raising capital to fund them. Some barriers have been structural, others cultural, but all have been costly — and often in ways that are hard to quantify.

In a 2018 survey that was conducted on behalf of Morgan Stanley by Brunswick Group, investors reported capitalising multicultural and women-owned businesses at 80% less than businesses overall, with research showing this translates roughly into USD4.4 trillion in missed opportunity.

The Multicultural Innovation Lab’s mission is to transform the investing landscape and it achieves this by providing program participants access to investors, along with the tools, resources and connections they need to grow and thrive. To date, the 51 U.S.-based companies that have participated in the program have raised over $100 million and have a combined valuation of over $515 million.

Morgan Stanley has expanded its commitment to the Lab, doubling the size of the program to include two cohorts per year in the U.S., and adding a program in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). 

“This year marks a new milestone for the Lab as we prepare to welcome the largest class ever of women and diverse founders with two cohorts in the U.S., as well as the inaugural EMEA cohort,” said Selma Bueno, Managing Director and recently appointed Head of Multicultural Client Strategy Group. “As we continue to expand the Lab’s impact, I look forward to partnering with colleagues across the Firm to identify new groundbreaking, diverse startups.”

In addition to the Innovation Lab, the Multicultural Client Strategy Group manages the Next Level Fund, which invests in early stage technology and technology-enabled diverse start-ups, and sponsors the Firm’s award-winning podcast, “Access & Opportunity” which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other major podcast platforms.