In an exclusive interview with The Plug on Thursday, Morgan Stanley announced eight new startups that will participate in its Multicultural Innovation Lab aimed at multicultural, women tech founders, co‐founders, CTOs and other C-suite members. The new cohort, representing industries across fintech, healthcare, media, marketplace, retail tech and enterprise software, will receive $250,000 each in funding from Morgan Stanley, executive coaching and greater access to a network of business catalyzing connections. 

“When we’re thinking of who to bring into the lab we look at whether there is proof of concept. These are companies that have the potential to go on to billion-dollar valuations,” Carla Harris, Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor and Co-head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, told The Plug.

One of the new participants, Tiffanie Stanard, founder and CEO of Stimulus, a SaaS tool that analyses enterprise data to fuel better purchasing decisions, said participating at this phase of the company is validating. 

“I have been following the results of this accelerator for years. I stand to gain further understanding of the importance of how companies make purchasing decisions, the importance of diversity and working with diverse vendors,” Stanard told The Plug. “Having that for a company of our size will only take us to the next level. It’s validation that you’re doing something right.”

The accelerator began on August 16 and will continue until January 2022, culminating in a showcase and demo day to investors. Past participants have collectively reached $460 million in company valuations since the program launched in 2017. 

To date, 51 companies have gone through the accelerator. Companies that are targeted to participate have founders, leadership and technical teams from underrepresented groups and have generally raised post‐seed to Series B funding rounds.  

Danny Garcia, cofounder of Playlister Club, a platform for A&R professionals to curate music and new artists, is looking forward to leveling up his pitching ability. 

“We have domain knowledge from working in this [music tech] space for a while, but the help we’re able to garner through Morgan Stanley is to build up the infrastructure beyond what we could have,” Garcia told The Plug

“What we’re after, are the universal lessons that apply to all companies of our size that we can then use to scale up, we’re ready for that knowledge,” he said. 

Tried and true business acumen adapted to unprecedented market volatility is a specialty for Harris, who recently celebrated her 34th anniversary at Morgan Stanley. She will put the breadth of her experience and network behind helping the participating companies succeed. 

“My area of expertise or superpower is that I facilitated deals in public and private markets, I can help these companies have an understanding of what’s happening in capital markets and the impact on the timing and risk appetite for investors in general and especially this market marked with a lot of volatility like we have right now,” Harris said.

The full list of companies that have been selected for the fall 2021 cohort include:

  • Cognicor: 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:  online platform that connects consumers who need help achieving their goals with the country’s largest network of certified fitness professionals
  • Lifesaver: fintech company that provides a universal mobile banking application for financial institutions that lack cutting-edge digital solutions. 
  • MedTrans Go: 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: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: online marketplace that connects pre-vetted production industry talent to employers in the entertainment and media industry.
  • Sozie: leading on-demand user-generated content (UGC) platform for brands and retailers to acquire content from their employee and shopper communities.
  • Stimulus: relationship intelligence SaaS platform that uses data and analytics to simplify how companies make purchasing decisions by offering vendor search, evaluation, selection & management tools.

“Our goal for the program is that the companies grow into the kinds of companies they aspire to be and have an M&A exit, billion-dollar valuation,” Harris said. “And if they don’t reach unicorn status, getting close to that. But the holy grail would be that we’re the bank of choice to facilitate that.”