The Capital Access Lab seeks to catalyze new financing mechanisms to serve the wide majority of entrepreneurs who can’t access venture capital or bank loans. Interested fund managers can contact us through the Kauffman portal by Submitting a New Idea. To ensure you are considered as part of the Capital Access Lab, select your area of interest as "Entrepreneurship" and your strategic focus as "Capital Access."

National Capital Access Lab

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has launched a national initiative, the Capital Access Lab, to break down barriers and increase access to capital for the makers, doers, and dreamers who want to deliver services, create a profit, or solve a problem. This new pilot program will seek out and fund innovative strategies to support the 83 percent or more of entrepreneurs who don’t receive either venture capital or a bank loan and are not well-served by the capital markets. This is not a typical fund – the Capital Access Lab will provide early capital to innovative, emerging funds that make investments directly to underserved entrepreneurs.

The Kauffman Foundation has committed $3 million to seed this new fund.

The Capital Access Lab is intended to spur the formation of new financing mechanisms that increase capital investment to underserved entrepreneurs who have been historically left behind, including due to their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, and/or geographic location. It will provide capital in the range of $250,000 to $1 million into three-to-five investments funds that will, in turn, provide capital to underserved entrepreneurs.

The Capital Access Lab is designed to provide risk capital to new investment models that do not resemble traditional venture capital or lending. Fund managers who are likely to qualify for an initial investment are likely to do one or more of the following:

  • Test and validate new approaches to investment, founder ownership, and investor liquidity. Examples might include revenue-based investing, performance-based equity, and employee stock ownership models.
  • The Lab is interested in a range of approaches to risk/return/liquidity that operate outside the traditional profile of venture capital and small business lenders.
  • The Lab is looking for investment strategies linked to increased revenue growth and faster paths to profitability for entrepreneurs, rather than measuring success based on increases in valuation or additional funds raised.
  • The Lab is seeking fund managers who aim to be a part of a broader community of practice seeking innovative ways to reduce barriers for entrepreneurial capital. We seek fund managers who are willing to open-source term sheets, share investment practices, and teach and learn together.
  • Funds can be sidecar, pilot, or experimental vehicles launched by established organizations as well as new organizations. Fund managers will need to explain how support from the Capital Access Lab will be catalytic to the formation of a new strategy or model.

Interested fund managers can contact us through the Kauffman portal by Submitting a New Idea. To ensure you are considered as part of the Capital Access Lab, select your area of interest as "Entrepreneurship" and your strategic focus as "Capital Access."


Additional background

Greater availability of capital means that more entrepreneurs will be able to start and grow their businesses, ultimately assisting individuals in achieving economic mobility and independence through entrepreneurial success.

The Kauffman Foundation extensively examined possible barriers entrepreneurs face accessing capital – finding that at least 83 percent of new businesses don’t access either venture capital or bank loans.

The result is that many of those who have been historically left behind – including due to race, ethnicity, gender, or geography – have greater challenges with accessing the initial capital to start or grow a young business.

Learn about the research that led to the formation of the Capital Access Lab in this excerpt from a forthcoming report that explores the current capital landscape to identify barriers facing underserved entrepreneurs.