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Sony Music UK and Digital Catapult launch programme to support black entrepreneurs

The FutureScope Black Founders Programme, an initiative to support the next generation of UK entrepreneurs and start-ups in digital entertainment, is launched today by Sony Music UK and Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology.

The Programme will help level the playing field for Black founders of early-stage start-ups by improving their access to networks and resources needed to raise startup funding. Over the course of 16 weeks, it will provide up to 10 start-up founders with tailored masterclasses and workshops to help increase their investment readiness and provide them with bespoke mentoring from entertainment and advanced technology experts. The programme will also provide networking opportunities to support their business growth journey. 

Digital Catapult has supported thousands of early-stage businesses in their growth journeys through its flagship FutureScope programmes. This new initiative is specifically designed to provide positive impact for Black founders who are exploring advanced digital technologies (such as 5G, artificial intelligence/machine learning, virtual and/or augmented reality, distributed ledger technologies, or quantum) within the field of digital entertainment, including music, arts, entertainment and gaming. 

The FutureScope Black Founders Programme is being run in collaboration with Sony Music UK’s 4th Floor Creative, forming the latest step in Sony Music’s wider strategy to promote both innovation and social justice in the music ecosystem. Sony Music UK already has partnerships with several landmark programmes in this space, including those supported by its Global Social Justice Fund.   

The Programme will be supported by ‘Musiio by SoundCloud’ and will feature engagement from startup experts and investors from Kinhub, Sure Valley Ventures, and FOC Ventures, alongside mentorship from digital entertainment specialists at Sony Music Group, and deep tech expertise from Digital Catapult’s technologists. 

The economic – and cultural – value of the UK’s world-leading digital entertainment industry is undisputed: according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the creative industries contributed £115.9 billion to the economy in 2019. Figures published by the British Film Institute in February 2023 showed a record £6.27 billion invested in UK film and TV production, research published by UK Music stated that the music industry contributes £4bn to the UK economy, employing 145,000 people, and data from UK Research and Innovation showed that the UK games industry contributes £2.87 billion to the economy and supports nearly 50,000 jobs. 

However, research from Atomico – an international investment firm – found that 62% of Black founders have found it increasingly hard to raise venture capital, 77% of Black founders disagreed that the European tech system is fair, and only 38 Black founders received venture capital funding between 2009 and 2019, just 0.24% of the total sum invested. 

Justin Cross, Director of Innovation Practice, Digital Catapult, said: “Our hope is that this programme can go some way towards helping to solve the multitude of structural challenges that Black founders face in the tech ecosystem. Digital Catapult has a 10 year track record of helping ambitious founders build on their entrepreneurial success and go on to succeed in the real world. Access to a network – of peers and experts – is crucial for understanding how to grow sustainably, pitch your product or service to the right people, and consider what that scaling journey actually looks like, for you and your business.”

Dorothy Hui, SVP Digital and Audience Development, Sony Music UK’s 4th Floor Creative, said: “We are delighted to partner with Digital Catapult on the FutureScope Black Founders Programme, which we hope will act as a launchpad for Black entrepreneurs driving innovative ideas in entertainment. We look forward to building on our history of working with ground-breaking companies through every stage of development to support improving diversity within the next generation of entrepreneurs. The programme will provide tailored investment advice and – crucially – frontline industry expertise that will help participants develop their business.”

The FutureScope Black Founders Programme includes: 

  • Individual sessions with innovation experts and mentors to assess business and investment needs;
  • Wider business and investment support, including workshops with experienced investors; 
  • Peer support from non-competing entrepreneurs through group coaching sessions and networking events; 
  • Masterclasses and mentoring from digital entertainment experts at Sony Music Worldwide; 
  • Access to state of the art technology facilities and deep tech expertise from Digital Catapult. 

The deadline for applications is 28 May 2023. For information on the application criteria, and how to apply, please see digicat.org.uk/FSBlackFounders  

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