Dealflow | November 12, 2020

Chicago’s mHUB raises $5 million to build an inclusive ‘hardtech’ ecosystem

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

ImpactAlpha, November 12 – Early-stage hardware companies get only a small slice of the venture capital pie—roughly $1 for every $15 software and other digital startups raise. For under-represented hardware founders, the financing gap is even wider.

Chicago-based mHUB aims to bridge the gap through an accelerator program that will award women entrepreneurs and founders of color working on hardware and deep tech startup innovations. The nonprofit has raised over $5 million, which will support 60 early-stage ventures over three years. mHUB is looking to raise $15 million. 

Each cohort will distribute $980,000 in cash investments and commit $500,000 to engineering, design and programming. mHUB will also host a pitch competition with cash prizes for diverse hardtech founders, separate from the accelerator.

mHUB’s first program will focus on industrial Internet of Things innovations. Applications are open until Dec. 21. mHUB’s Shannon McGhee told ImpactAlpha that the pool so far includes 31% gender-diverse founders and 38% racially-diverse founders. “We want to beat averages for the tech industry,” said McGhee.  

mHUB partners with organizations and historically black colleges and universities such as Stillman College to attract a more diverse set of founders.

“We have really strong established pipelines with the regional university systems where we become an extension of their commercialization operations,” mHUB’s Haven Allen told ImpactAlpha.

The accelerator is looking to capitalize on Chicago’s supportive ecosystem for hardtech entrepreneurs, which includes more than 2,000 startups and a diversified manufacturing economy that accounts for $103 billion annually and employs over 565,000 people, according to the nonprofit.

As for helping to diversify the ecosystem, McGhee says, “We’re still piloting, we’re still learning and growing and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”