Morgan Stanley's new innovation lab welcomes first cohort

Morgan Stanley’s new innovation lab welcomes first cohort

Morgan Stanley’s new innovation lab, which aims to support multiculturalism and diversity in financial services, has onboarded five start-ups for its three-month accelerator programme.

As Banking Technology reported earlier this summer, Morgan Stanley’s initiative focuses on start-ups with seed funding that have a multicultural or female founder, CTO or other member of the C-suite.

Based at the bank’s HQ in New York’s Time Square, this “tech-talent accelerator” is a brainchild of Carla Harris, a vice-chairwoman of Morgan Stanley and head of its multicultural client strategy group.

“Only a small fraction of all venture capital money is given to multicultural and women entrepreneurs,” explains Harris.

“Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is a leader at the intersection of what these companies need: capital, connections, and investment banking content. We have the resources, access to relationships, and the expertise that can help refine these businesses and hopefully attract capital to scale up in size.”

The five start-ups selected for the first cohort are:

  • Kairos – artificial intelligence (AI) for facial recognition. Morgan Stanley says Kairos’ founder Brian Brackeen “is looking to disrupt the security and marketing worlds with his new technology”.

“I come from a middle-class African American family in Philly,” Brackeen says. “I’m not that guy from an affluent family who went to an Ivy League school and has a huge college network of friends in banking and hedge funds.”

  • Landit – helps professional women seeking to move their career forward. The company is often described as “LinkedIn for women”.
  • AptDeco – an online marketplace for buying and selling preowned furniture made by quality brands.
  • GitLinks – monitors open source usage for enterprise, identifying risks in security, licensing and updating.
  • Trigger – mobile development platform.

In November this year, the start-ups will be making their own sales pitches at a Morgan Stanley symposium with potential investors.

“If they look back and are able to say ‘wow, these last three months here were invaluable and I’m now ready to go onto the next stage of venture capital financing,’ then it’ll be a success,” says Alice Vilma, an executive director in Morgan Stanley’s multicultural client strategy group, who designed the programme.

Ultimately, the plan is to extend the programme to host ten to 15 start-ups a year in two cohorts, Morgan Stanley says.

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