ICA is an Oakland-based organization with 25 years of experience supporting small businesses to scale their operations and access the capital they need to strategically grow. Presently, we do this work through education offerings, advising, and direct investment. As a non-profit, our work focuses on supporting businesses to create wealth building opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs and their workers as the business grows and increases in value.
ICA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Oakland, California and we serve the entire 9-county Bay Area. The organization provides strategic support and investments to small businesses that are looking to grow, secure capital, and create wealth for their founders and employees. We provide a continuum of support ranging from accelerator programs to targeted investments so that entrepreneurs can get the resources they need to grow their companies. Our programs are deeply interconnected and provide tailored, expert advising, and access to the right type of financing for your business.
We are always looking for new companies to join our network. As a general rule, the types of companies we work with are already in business and generating revenue. All of our companies also have to be based in the Bay Area. There are more detailed requirements for each ICA program. To start working with ICA, you can fill out an interest form and tell us about your business. We’ll be in touch!
ICA also depends on a talented and committed group of pro bono advisors. These professionals are successful business owners, executives, and industry experts who provide mentorship, education, and resources to growing ICA companies.
Since 1996, we've worked with over 700 dynamic, small businesses that have generated over $1B in revenues, raised over $350M in capital, paid over $1 Billion in wages, and created 6,000 local jobs. We are passionate about supporting businesses that are committed to growing sustainably and making their communities stronger in the process.
Companies are a good fit to work with ICA when they are:
If you've answered yes to all of these questions, apply now!
If you don’t yet meet these criteria, we still want to get to know you - contact us using this form to tell us about your business.
Yes! Since 1996, ICA companies have raised over $350 million in capital. In our experience it can take a company up to 12 months to raise capital, but every company’s timeline and journey is unique to its business and industry.
For most companies that complete ICA's programs, the capital-raising process typically start after you graduate. We are committed to supporting each company through the capital raising journey and our goal is to be with you at each step of the way.
As a part of the ICA"s alumni network, graduates of our accelerator programs (like The Lab and The Accelerator) have access to continued tailored support, engagement opportunities with fellow program alumni, and vetted professional service providers in ICA’s ecosystem. We will continue to be a resource to you and your business as you grow and raise capital!
ICA provides a continuum of coaching and capital for our businesses. For companies receiving investment from the Growth Fund, this means that our business support extends well beyond our financial investments. Post-investment ICA will be your partner in growing your business. We frequently assist or portfolio companies with additional capital raising efforts, discuss growth strategies, and connect you and your team with HR and accounting experts.
After being founded as Oakland Advisors in 1996, ICA was known as Inner City Advisors for many years. Over time, we've moved away from using Inner City to situate our work and no longer use the Inner City Advisors name. These days ICA is "just" ICA and we stand for building an economy that works for all.
The Lab at ICA, is designed to support high potential early stage businesses to stabilize, grow, and become capital ready. Through workshops and office hours over a four week period, companies focus on strengthening their business model, creating a path to increased profitability, establishing a 6 – 12 month growth roadmap, and preparing the business to take on micro-debt or micro-equity.
The Lab’s weekly workshops and office hours are virtual and delivered over a 5-week period. You can still expect the same quality of content, engagement, and connection ICA’s programming delivers in person.
We host two cohorts each year, one that starts in January, and one that starts in July.
Over 5 weeks, each company benefits from approximately 20 hours of support through group workshops, peer-to-peer support, and office hours to work through:
The program culminates with a presentation by participants, sharing their pitch deck, highlighting the work they have completed and reflections on their accomplishments.
We like to keep the cohorts intimate to foster cohesion and group-based learning, but we can support up to 20 companies per cohort.
To date, most of the companies that have participated in ICA’s programs have been in retail, CPG manufacturing, business services, and the food and beverage companies. Currently, we do not work with tech companies, but do support tech-enabled business within the aforementioned sectors.
We have a wide range of high-caliber advisors from across many sectors that have deep expertise in finance, growth strategy, raising capital, HR, people & culture, marketing, and branding. Each advisor is interviewed, vetted by our programs team, and onboarded to ensure they understand ICA’s culture and standards of advising.
No. Companies that complete the Lab at ICA are eligible to be evaluated for our Seed Capital, based on program participation and growth milestones.
ICA is committed to ensuring that our companies receive the capital they need to grow so, even if your company is not a fit for the Seed Equity Fund, we can oftentimes make introductions to aligned capital providers after you complete the program.
Yes, applying earlier is generally a good idea because applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. We can’t wait to learn more about your company!
If you have additional questions before submitting your application, please send an email to email@example.com.
The Accelerator is designed to support high-potential businesses to strengthen their fundamentals and become investment-ready. Through workshops and direct advising over a four month period, companies focus on their growth strategy, people strategy, capital strategy, and becoming investment ready. You can learn more about the current Accelerator portfolio here.
Our Accelerator has shifted to a hybrid-virtual format. You can expect the same high-quality programming you would get in an in-person, presented in a hybrid virtual / in-person format. You will continue to have time to collaborate with your cohort, work with your facilitators, and meet one-on-one with your advisors.
We typically host two cohorts per year.
Over 4 months, each company benefits from about 20 hours of support through group workshops, peer-to-peer support, and individualized advising sessions with high-caliber advisors to work through:
The program culmination gives companies a chance to highlight the work they have done, present their decks to their peers, and reflect on their accomplishments together.
Our annual ICA Pitch Event will be held in November. The Pitch Event gives ICA program alumni the chance to deliver their fundraising pitches in front of ICA’s ecosystem of entrepreneurs, capital providers, investors, and community supporters.
We generally target 5 -10 companies per cohort, but this number is based on the applications we get and which companies will benefit from being in the cohort together. We like to keep the cohorts intimate to foster cohort cohesion and group-based learning.
To date, most of the companies that have participated in the Accelerator have been in the Retail, CPG Manufacturing; Business Services; and Food and Beverage sectors, where we have a lot of expertise. At this time, we do not work with tech only companies, but we are open to learning more about your business, the accessibility of the jobs you plan on creating, and how we might be helpful in connecting you to resources.
We have a wide range of high-caliber advisors across many sectors who have deep expertise in finance, growth strategy, capital raising, HR, people & culture, marketing, and branding. Each advisor is interviewed, vetted by our programs team, and onboarded to ensure they understand our culture and standards of advising.
Are you interested in becoming an advisor? Apply here and someone will be in touch with you!
While there is no cost to participate in the ICA Accelerator, ICA requires 2% equity of your business, via a warrant.
The purpose of the ICA Accelerator is to sustainably grow your business and to help you create a fundraising strategy. Our philosophy is that we win when our companies win and this is reflected in the Accelerator's warrant structure.
A warrant is a document that gives ICA the right to buy equity in your company at an agreed upon price over a specified period of time. More specifically, ICA will have the option to purchase a 2% equity stake in your business. This option to purchase equity is arranged in the form of a 10-year assignable warrant, and will be exercised only when there is a significant event, and in accordance with the terms of the warrant document provided by ICA. In the event an exercisable event takes place after 10 years and 1 day, ICA will no longer have the ability to exercise the warrant.
In general terms, the warrant is a reflection of our commitment and belief that each entrepreneur we work with will grow their company to their ultimate vision and win big! If our Accelerator portfolio companies win big and share some of the win with us, it allows us to use those proceeds to support even more early stage companies through our services.
Currently, each Accelerator company is not guaranteed investment through ICA’s investment fund. However, companies in our Accelerator are eligible to be evaluated by our investment team to see if they may be a fit for investment. This is determined on a cohort by cohort basis.
If you have additional questions before submitting your application, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, we would love to get to know you sooner so we encourage you to apply as soon as you are able. We can’t wait to meet you!
Each ICA investment is evaluated on a case-by-case basis but there are some specific ways companies can be considered investment-ready. Investment ready businesses have a developed product, established manufacturing capabilities (if applicable), online brand presence, and have been in operation for a minimum of one year, post-revenue.
Certain criteria apply to all ICA investments. The investment criteria are as follows:
**Companies that have completed ICA accelerator programs receive first consideration
Yes, our work towards our mission of closing the racial and gender wealth gaps begins with our companies, so a demonstrable commitment to our mission is a requirement for investment.
ICA is industry-agnostic and makes in. Below are industries in which we are most experienced:
ICA accelerator programs and our Growth Fund work closely to provide small businesses with an interconnected continuum of coaching and capital that helps them scale and create wealth in the community. Accelerator programs like The Lab at ICA or The Accelerator at ICA, provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs, while the Growth Fund makes targeted investment in companies.
The ICA team works closely together to assess and evaluate ICA companies and ensures that our coaching and capital are always in sync. What’s more, companies that complete accelerator programs and meet specific milestones are eligible to enter into due diligence with The Growth Fund for check sizes ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 in convertible SAFE note.
To qualify to be evaluated, you must meet the following growth and program milestones:
It depends. At the moment, to be eligible for seed capital from the Growth Fund, companies must complete at least one accelerator program at ICA. Companies seeking growth capital are eligible to enter into due diligence with the investment team regardless of participation in ICA accelerator programs, though ICA accelerator companies and alumni receive first consideration.
No. While the Growth Fund gives first consideration to companies that have completed ICA accelerator programs, investment is not guaranteed for any company.
Check sizes in the Growth Fund are tailored to the needs of your business and vary depending on product.
The seed capital product makes investments in earlier stage businesses and amounts range from $25,000 to $50,000, while growth capital check sizes range from $250,000 to $750,000 and are reserved for more mature businesses.
Seed Capital from ICA’s Growth Fund is a milestone-based investment product that ICA companies can be eligible for upon graduation from The Lab at ICA or The Accelerator at ICA. Companies must demonstrate strong potential for scalability, be focused on strategic growth, committed to developing an inclusive workplace culture, establishing profit/equity distribution opportunities as the business grows, based in the nine county Bay Area, and are led by or have a workforce inclusive of people of color and women.
ICA invests up to $50,000 through a SAFE Note for qualifying companies.
ICA targets a small minority stake. Optimal ownership stakes are decided on a case-by-case basis and typically range from 3% to 15%.
Our investing strategy combines an immediate response to the liquidity crisis created by the pandemic shutdown and patient, flexible capital for longer-term growth investments. ICA makes investments through its Growth Fund, which offers three tailored products: rapid response loans, seed capital, and growth capital.
The products available in the Growth Fund are:
Rapid Response Loans:
More information available on the Rapid Response page.
Yes, ICA provides “patient capital” and there is no obligation to make an exit. Due to the nature of our fund structure, and sources of our capital, we are able to be flexible on timing and investment terms.
Yes, ICA supports crowdfunding and most other forms of generating capital to grow your business. Please reach out if you have additional questions. Our contact information is below
SAFE stands for simple agreement for future equity. SAFE notes are a simpler alternative to convertible notes. They were created in 2013 by Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley accelerator, and allow startups to structure seed investments without interest rates or maturity dates.
A SAFE note is a convertible security that, like an option or warrant, allows the investor to buy shares in a future-priced fundraising round. They address many of the drawbacks and challenges posed by convertible notes and can be an equitable option for both investors and founders. Companies often prefer SAFE notes over convertible notes because, unlike convertible notes, they do not accrue interest.
Yes – our Raid Response loans. The Rapid Response product is a 0%-interest loan launched in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, and available only to businesses with an immediate emergency need for liquidity or working capital. More information available on the Rapid Response page.
You can contact the ICA investment team directly at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.