Officials with the city’s leading universities announced last week that their schools are partnering in a unique manner to spotlight Black-founded and Black-owned businesses.

Officials at Duke University and North Carolina Central University are inviting college students and recent graduates around the country who have started or are leading growing businesses to showcase their enterprises to investors while competing for up to $25,000 this spring.

The program, “pitch: A Competition for Black Student-Founders” will take place virtually on April 8 and 9, Duke University announced on November 19.

The “pitch” competition is co-promoted by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and the School of Business at N. C. Central.

The schools are collaborating with Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative and Resilient Ventures to support and promote young Black entrepreneurship. That support and promotion of Black enterprise can’t come soon enough.

The announcement reports that the participation gaps faced by Black start-up funders and founders are “staggering.”

Only about one percent of venture-backed companies have Black founders, only three percent of investment partners at venture capitalist firms are Black, and fewer than 50 startups led by Black women have raised $1 million or more, according to the press announcement.

”Black businesses continue to be marred with a variety of barriers that stand in the way of successful launch or sustainability,” Anthony Nelson, dean of the N.C. Central School of Business, said in the announcement.

“This ‘pitch’ experience,” he added, “promises to provide student business founders with access to resources that will significantly enhance the opportunity for growth and development of their businesses. It is our honor and privilege to collaborate with Duke in this effort and we look forward to seeing how these businesses influence social justice and economic development.”

Bill Boulding, dean of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, echoed Nelson, stating in the announcement that business activity “provides a remarkable opportunity for societal transformation.”

“We therefore have the responsibility of using the platform of business as a force multiplier to tackle pernicious and persistent issues of racial equity, justice, and fairness that plague society,” Boulding added. 

The university officials note that beyond the possibility of thousands of dollars in prize money, the “pitch” competition “is focused on delivering a robust experience for the participating entrepreneurs,” adding that “The enterprising students will receive “expert feedback from investors knowledgeable about their industry.”

Officials have designed the two-day competition so that “each cohort of entrepreneurs will be appropriately sized so participants can be seen and mentored during and after the competition.”

Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.