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Morgan Stanley Selects 8 Startups for 6th Cohort of Multicultural Innovation Lab Supporting Diverse Founders

  • The Summer 2021 Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) Cohort includes the following companies that have innovative strategies across sectors such as fintech, healthcare, media, marketplace, retail tech and enterprise software: Cognicor, Fyt Personal Training, Lifesaver, MedTrans Go, Playlister Club, Productions.com, Sozie and Stimulus
  • MCIL portfolio companies reach a $450M+ combined valuation and have raised $80M+ in additional funding to date after participating in the Lab

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Morgan Stanley today announced the sixth cohort of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator program for technology and technology-enabled startups in the post‐seed to Series B funding rounds. The program, now in its fifth year and with 51 total participating companies to date, targets startups with a multicultural or woman founder, co‐founder, CTO or other C-suite member that is developing innovative solutions across sectors. Through the Lab, Morgan Stanley makes investments in these early stage, high-growth companies and will support each founder’s growth and development through its ecosystem of internal and external partners.

“Welcoming another cohort to our growing portfolio of companies is another step forward in the effort to close the funding gap for diverse founders that exists in the marketplace today,” said Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley and Co-Head of the Multicultural Client Strategy Group. “I am excited to hit the ground running to work with these talented founders, having witnessed first-hand the tremendous success of the program in bringing these businesses to scale.”

The companies participating in the program began on August 16 and are operating in a hybrid environment, using online video platforms to facilitate the Lab curriculum and convening in-person to foster community. The entrepreneurs receive support from a dedicated Morgan Stanley team delivering tailored experiences to help each company grow. The program will run through January 2022, culminating in the sixth Multicultural Innovation Lab Showcase and Demo Day that will present the companies to potential investors.

The Lab has had four successful years with six cohorts and continues to expand in the fifth year with the goal of increasing access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs, which has proven successful as evidenced by resulting company acquisitions and additional funding rounds following participation in the program. Some notable examples include:

  • AptDeco, a peer to peer marketplace for buying and selling furniture, has expanded to two additional geographical markets and secured partnerships with brands such as West Elm and Pottery Barn.
  • Virtual-reality-based (VR) diversity and inclusion platform, Praxis Labs raised $3.2 million in seed funding earlier this year, making founder Elise Smith one of 93 Black women to raise more than $1 million for a venture-backed business as of 2020.
  • With the support of the MCIL team, BaseCap Analytics, an AI-enabled software company that empowers organizations to efficiently improve their data quality, grew their team by 25 percent, increased their product (vs. service) client threefold, and raised a series seed round.

“We look forward to welcoming our next cohort of founders to provide the tools, resources and connections they need to grow and scale their sector-disrupting businesses,” said Alice Vilma, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab. “Highlighting these great companies with diverse founders and leveraging our expansive and global networks and resources will hopefully widen their universe and attract the capital needed to scale”

The companies that have been selected for the Summer 2021 cohort include the following:

  • Cognicor is an AI-powered digital assistant platform for the financial industry, automating and augmenting the efficiency of advisors and support teams of IBDs, Wirehouses, RIAs and insurance firms, enabling scalable operations and accelerating growth.
  • Fyt Personal Training is an online platform that connects consumers who need help achieving their goals with the country’s largest network of certified fitness professionals
  • Lifesaver is a fintech company that provides a universal mobile banking application for financial institutions that lack cutting-edge digital solutions.
  • MedTrans Go is a tech-enabled patient optimization platform that aims to reduce medical appointment cancellations by providing patients access to medical transportation, interpretation services, Rx delivery and telemedicine services.
  • Playlister Club is a music discovery platform that provides artists and labels with access to a community of “playlisters” (creators of music playlists) seeking to discover new songs and artists.
  • Productions.com is an online marketplace that connects pre-vetted production industry talent to employers in the entertainment and media industry.
  • Sozie is a leading on-demand user-generated content (UGC) platform for brands and retailers to engage their employee and shopper communities to create rich product content.
  • Stimulus is a relationship intelligence SaaS platform that uses data and analytics to simplify how companies make purchasing decisions by offering vendor search, evaluation, selection and management tools.

The Lab has launched a series of MCIL portfolio company profiles in partnership with The Plug to raise their visibility and drive attention to the market inefficiency when it comes to funding women and multicultural founders.

About the Multicultural Innovation Lab

The Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) is an intensive five-month accelerator designed to help further develop and scale startups, culminating in a Demo Day and showcase presentation to the investor community. Morgan Stanley launched the MCIL in 2017 in order to address inequities in funding of multicultural and women-led startups, which our research shows equals over four trillion dollars in unrealized returns. The team is led by Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and Managing Director Carla Harris and Managing Director Alice Vilma. Together, they have had over 50 years of equity syndicate, investment banking, capital markets and structured finance experience. The Multicultural Innovation Lab, part of our Multicultural Client Strategy Group, was launched to promote financial inclusion and decrease the funding gap for diverse entrepreneurs.

Listen to the Access & Opportunity with Carla Harris podcast on your platform of choice to learn about the players driving change among diverse entrepreneurs, the Investor community, and the world.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) is a leading global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, wealth management and investment management services. With offices in more than 41 countries, the Firm’s employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. For more information about Morgan Stanley, please visit https://www.morganstanley.com/.


Media Relations: Katherine Stueber, [email protected]

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Comcast NBCUniversal Selects 11 Startups for the Fourth Class of Its LIFT Labs Accelerator, Powered by Techstars

Companies were chosen based on their innovations shaping connected living, next-generation entertainment, the future of work, and personalized experiences

PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Comcast today announced the startups selected for the fourth Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. These 11 companies, chosen from hundreds of applicants from over 40 countries, were identified for their potential to revolutionize industries across the core focus areas of the accelerator, including Connected Living, NextGen Entertainment, Future of Work, and Personalized Experiences.

Starting today, founders hailing from France, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and cities across the United States, from Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York City, will participate in this immersive 12-week program.

This year’s class is developing new innovations that have potential to shape the future of their industries, ranging from products that can power the future of work to gaming services to platforms that facilitate more creative and connected ways for families to enjoy and interact with media. More than a third (36%) of selected companies are led by at least one founder who self-identifies as a person of color or racial/ethnic minority in their home country while more than a third (36%) are led by a woman or gender diverse founder.

These startups will be mentored by over 100+ experts and industry leaders from across Comcast, which was recently recognized as one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators by Fast Company. Mentors include leaders from the Xfinity technology, product, and experience teams; the NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations; NBCUniversal cable networks; Universal Studios; Universal Theme Parks; DreamWorks Animation; Comcast Business; Comcast Ventures; Strategic Development; and Sky; as well as mentors from Techstars’ expansive global network.

Since the first class in 2018, 32 companies have completed the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, and 75% have secured pilots or enterprise deals with a division or business unit of Comcast NBCUniversal.

“This Accelerator gives Comcast the opportunity to build long-term relationships with these carefully selected high-potential startups and I am excited to welcome this diverse and talented group of entrepreneurs into our fourth class,” said Comcast’s Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz. “We will work hand-in-hand with these companies to help them grow, learning as much from them as they learn from us.”

Founders will participate in workshops on fundraising, working with corporations, communicating through the media, and will meet experienced founders, business leaders, and subject matter experts who will share their insights in building and selling highly successful startups. At the conclusion of the program, the companies will participate in a Demo Day on November 4, 2021 and present their businesses before some of the world’s top venture capitalists, startup founders, business executives, and media.

Techstars’ veteran KJ Singh will serve as the Managing Director of the 2021 accelerator and work alongside the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs team, led by Danielle Cohn, Vice President, Startup Engagement, and Luke Butler, Senior Director, Startup Engagement. Together this team will leverage their operational expertise to guide these startups on formulating the best product/market fit, business development, and fundraising strategies, and tap their extensive relationships to facilitate deals and other business opportunities for these companies.

Meet the 2021 class of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars:

Employee Cycle automates the HR reporting and analytics process by transforming disconnected employee data from multiple HR systems into one centralized, real-time, actionable and shareable HR dashboard.

Founders: Bruce Marable (CEO) & Salas Saraiya | Philadelphia, PA |

Hollo is an AI enabled talent experience platform that helps HR teams pre-qualify candidates for roles and helps resurface past applicants for future jobs that are a better match while making the communication more efficient.

Founders: Thomas Moussafer (CEO) & Andy Mpondo Black | Paris, France |

Holodia’s platform, HOLOFIT, is an immersive, hardware agnostic, connected FitTech platform that merges gaming and fitness leading to increased user engagement and physical activity.

Founders: Shahin Lauritzen (CEO) & Bojana Knezevic | Zurich, Switzerland |

HUSSLUP is a networked marketplace of individuals in the creative industry making discovery easier via personal profiles, verified credits and encrypted creative samples to increase diverse hiring.

Founder: H Schuster (CEO) | Los Angeles, California |

LootLocker is a game backend-as-a-service that unlocks cross-platform services for development teams, saving time and money.

Founders: Alexander Bergendahl (CEO) & Andreas Stokholm | Stockholm, Sweden |

Nagish’s mobile app allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate via phone by converting speech-to-text and text-to-speech faster and more accurately than ever before.

Founder: Tomer Aharoni (CEO) | New York, NY |

Paco is an intelligent workflow assistant that helps teams eliminate distractions, capture to-dos and tasks from multiple communication channels allowing employees to focus on their work.

Founders: Sumit Suman (CEO), Sameer Narang & Nitin Pande | New York, NY |

Peek is a social reading app that creates a multiplayer reading experience, allowing users to purchase books, discuss in text, engage with authors, and interact with other readers in real time.

Founders: Deborah Igunma (CEO) & Emmanuel Ojo | London, UK |

Sidewalk connects communities of business operators to give them access to modern property and liability insurance at a significantly lower cost than other insurance providers.

Founders: Brennan Pothetes (CEO) & Jenn Sammarco | New York, NY |

Think Confluent is an AI assistant that analyzes free form text feedback from employees to provide individualized action plans for employees and actionable insights for managers to increase team satisfaction.

Founders: Sarah Allali (CEO) & Nicolas Cabrignac | Paris, France |

Zoog is an asynchronous communication platform that allows users to take any children’s book and bring it to life using modern AR, ML and advanced animation capabilities.

Founders: Yoav Oren (CEO), Matan Guttman | Tel-Aviv, Israel |

For more information on the companies in this year’s accelerator, visit www.ComcastNBCULIFT.com and follow @LIFT_Labs on Twitter.

About Comcast Corporation

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. We are principally focused on broadband, aggregation, and streaming with 57 million customer relationships across the United States and Europe. We deliver broadband, wireless, and video through our Xfinity, Comcast Business, and Sky brands; create, distribute, and stream leading entertainment, sports, and news through Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studio Group, Sky Studios, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, multiple cable networks, Peacock, NBCUniversal News Group, NBC Sports, Sky News, and Sky Sports; and provide memorable experiences at Universal Parks and Resorts in the United States and Asia. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

About Techstars

The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas—entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 2,500 companies with a combined market cap of more than $220B. www.techstars.com


Louise Eich, Comcast


[email protected]

Matthew Mirandi, Berk Communications

[email protected]