The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) congratulates startup companies that recently graduated from the fifth cohort of the Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL). The MCIL, Morgan Stanley’s in-house startup accelerator, promotes financial inclusion and provides access to capital for early stage technology and tech-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. It was the first accelerator accepted into NJEDA´s NJ Accelerate program in late 2020.

An accelerator is a fixed-term, cohort-based “boot camp” for startups that offers educational and mentorship programs and facilitates connections to venture capitalists, angel investors, mentors, and corporate executives who can help early-stage companies grow. Many accelerators also provide investment capital and office space.

NJ Accelerate, which launched in 2020, incentivizes accelerators from around the country to recruit participants in New Jersey. It also incentivizes the startups to locate in the Garden State after graduating from approved accelerators. Through NJ Accelerate, the NJEDA matches investment provided by approved accelerators with up to $250,000 in direct loans for startups that locate in New Jersey within six months after graduating from the approved programs. A five-percent bonus is available for companies that are certified as women-or minority-owned. The NJEDA will also provide rent support for up to six months if a company locates in an approved NJ Ignite collaborative workspace.

The MCIL was created in 2017 to drive positive economic outcomes for multicultural and women-led companies in the post-seed to Series B funding rounds by providing content, visibility, technical support, and connectivity with important stakeholders who can accelerate the growth of a participants’ businesses. To date, the Lab has a portfolio of 51 participating companies that reach over $450 million in combined valuation and have raised more than $80 million in additional funding after completing the program.

“As we continue to advance initiatives that increase access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs in New Jersey, we take a moment to applaud the success of Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab, which provides the support businesses need to grow and scale in their respective areas,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The tools, resources and connections provided by the MCIL and the NJEDA have proven to be essential for these startup companies who are developing innovative solutions across different sectors of our economy, bringing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars into the state and serving as a testament to Governor Phil Murphy’s strategy for building a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

The Lab is currently working with its sixth cohort of diverse funders following Morgan Stanley’s recent selection of eight startups for the Summer 2021 class. These includes companies that have innovative strategies across sectors – such as fintech, healthcare, media, marketplace, retail tech and enterprise software.

ABF Creative, a Newark, NJ-based audio content production company and America´s first and only artificial intelligence-driven producer of multicultural audio content, was among the startups selected to participate in the fifth MCIL cohort that recently graduated from the program.

“It was a pleasure to work with Morgan Stanley. The commitment to making sure our company was successful is something I was surprised to see from such a large institution. I’m happy to have them on speed dial to help us not just during the cohort, but even long after,” said ABF Creative Chief Executive Officer Anthony Frasier.

Through the Lab, Morgan Stanley makes investments in early stage, high-growth companies, committing to support each founder’s growth and development through its network of internal and external partners. The Lab’s curriculum is tailored to suit each individual cohort, but it generally includes such topics as branding a startup, developing an investor pitch, refining a company’s value proposition and devising effective finance and sales strategies. In addition, Morgan Stanly offers participants the opportunity to meet with industry experts for one-on-one consultations, as it pairs each startup company with a mentor chosen specifically for their relevant expertise. The mentor communicates with the participant on a regular basis and provides advice and counsel on company growth and scaling of the business.

“Morgan Stanley is proud to invest in talented entrepreneurs who make a commendable effort to grow and develop their companies through the Morgan Stanley platform,” said Alice Vilma, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab. “As we continue to work with the NJEDA to address existing inequities in funding of multicultural and women-led startups, we’re thrilled to keep providing these companies access to our global networks and resources to help bring their businesses to scale.”

On August 16, the sixth cohort of participating companies began the five-month program which culminates in a Demo Day and showcase presentation to potential investors scheduled to take place in January 2022. The Lab is currently operating in a hybrid environment, using online video platforms to facilitate its curriculum and convening in-person to foster community engagement. Applications are currently open for the Winter 2022 class through September 16, 2021. To learn more about the Multicultural Innovation Lab, please visit https://www.morganstanley.com/about-us/diversity/multicultural-innovation-lab.

Accelerators and entrepreneurs interested in participating in the NJ Accelerate program are encouraged to contact the NJEDA at NJAccelerate@njeda.com. Additional information and detailed eligibility criteria for both accelerator programs and entrepreneurs are available at https