A new Halifax-based network called Tribe has been established to act as a national entrepreneurship and innovation hub for BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Founded by social entrepreneur Alfred Burgesson, the network has established partnerships with major incubators and accelerators in Atlantic Canada, including Volta, Startup Zone PEI, Venn Innovation and Genesis Centre. Other partners include Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Community College, Saint Mary’s University, and ONSIDE.

Working with Brilliant Labs, the group will offer Brilliant Creators for BIPOC youth, aged 14 to 17. The program will recruit 15 youth and ask them to apply United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals and a STEM focus to creating solutions.

“The truth is that access to trusted networks and information remains a significant barrier for BIPOC entrepreneurs,” said Burgesson, whose own experience includes advising many groups and individuals, including the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. 

"This initiative is about empowerment, and creating the environment for BIPOC entrepreneurs and community leaders to have greater access, pathways, opportunities to participate in the ecosystem and to create with one another," he said in an interview.

Burgesson said he is working on forging partnerships across the country, after establishing Tribe as a non-profit last year. Most recently, he has been working with Senator Colin Deacon on a project that aims to make entrepreneurship in Canada more inclusive, particularly for Black entrepreneurs.

He said the work with Deacon was “a spark” and clarified what the problems are. Problems include the siloeing of ecosystems, he said, which emphasized the need for BIPOC entrepreneurs to have a central place to learn what is happening in different regions and connect on problems and solutions.

Tribe is also partnering with Volta, BBI (the Black Business Initiative) and Ulnoweeg to onboard Boost participants onto its platform. Boost is a new 16-week program to support Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs in the region.

The Toronto-based Black Professionals in Tech Network is already fulfilling similar functions, but Burgesson said the Tribe Network is less formal, and will work across industries and sectors.

“The platform allows for people to join groups that they’re interested in, create groups of their own and create different topics the community is interested in…” he said.

So far, the Tribe team includes just Burgesson and a student graduate of the Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Saint Mary’s University.  

The group has applied for funding from the National Ecosystem Fund, which provides funding to Black-led non-profit groups that support Black entrepreneurs and business owners.

Last year, Entrevestor talked to Leeno Karumanchery, Co-Founder and Chief Diversity Officer of the New Brunswick startup MESH/diversity. He said anyone taking the ambitious step of starting a company asks four basic questions: Do I really want to do it? Can I do it? Will I do it? And will the ecosystem support me?

“If you’ve grown up Black, never seeing a Black entrepreneur, and you’ve never seen the evidence of people like you getting to places, that last box is not so easy to tick,” said Karumanchery. 

Burgesson admits his own entrepreneurial credentials are limited, but he believes his experience, which includes working with First Nations Chiefs, is a good foundation.

He is still involved with the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.

“It’s been an interesting experience,” he said. “You can give someone advice all you want, but by taking on Tribe I’m trying to take action and provide solutions to some of the problems we have. It’s time for me to roll up my sleeves.”