The Diverse Founders Grant
Mission and Goals
Across multiple industries, there is a substantial (often significant) lack of representation among founders, leadership, and investors in early-stage companies. The ability of startups to obtain legal and financial support to break into their industries is often made more difficult by issues of interpersonal bias and systemic or historic exclusion. This has been especially true of startups owned and/or run by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color (BILPOC), as well as startups owned and/or run by people with first generation, differently abled, or formerly incarcerated backgrounds. Access to legal representation and other professional service providers is integral to the creation and structuring of a successful business. A law firm that offers expertise in multiple industry segments including corporate governance, intellectual property, labor and employment, and tax law is an invaluable asset to an emerging business, especially one facing the additional challenges and inequities of underrepresented ownership.
The Hanson Bridgett Diverse Founders Grant Program (Program) attempts to address this well-known problem in the most direct way: provide a program of free and reduced fee legal services to for-profit businesses at a crucial growth point—where the need to scale the business for success clashes directly with the systemic lack of access to capital and historic exclusion from wealth creation. By providing support at this crucial growth point, the Diverse Founders Grant Program aims to take real action to close the gap for underrepresented founders through partnership and education, in addition to services tailored to the specific needs of each grantee.
Once per calendar quarter, the Diverse Founders Grant Program will select one startup to participate. The startup will receive an initial $20,000 grant in pro bono legal services, assistance in relationship building with other vendors and partners with similar programs, and an ongoing relationship with Hanson Bridgett on a reduced fee schedule. Details regarding these benefits will be outlined in an engagement letter with the participating startup.
The Program will select the participating startup based on a holistic review of application materials, with an eye toward the underlying goals of the Program. Generally, applicants should be working to establish themselves in industries where founders have faced systemic barriers and historical exclusion—for instance, founders with BILPOC, first generation, immigrant, formerly incarcerated, or differently abled backgrounds.
The Program will select the participant in the first month of each calendar quarter and will inform participants of selection immediately. Once an engagement letter is signed, the participant can begin receiving legal services.
How to Apply
Program applicants should submit all materials electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. Application materials should include the following documents and information:
- Basic information about the business: location information, incorporation information (if applicable), number and location of workers (including both employees and independent contractors), website, etc.
- Business plan and/or pitch deck
- Founder information and/or capitalization table
- Written explanation for why the startup fits within the goals and purpose of the Program
- Written explanation of the type of legal and other business support that the startup currently needs, including a general description of the startup's current growth stage
- Information on existing legal representation and/or outside counsel relationships