The Oxford Foundry's Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative aims to proactively ensure that we see more people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in senior leadership positions within business, start-ups, and venture capital.

The Parker Review (March 2021) found that nearly a fifth of FTSE 100 companies lack board-level ethnic diversity, and only five ethnic minority directors occupy a CEO position, compared to six ethnic minority directors that held CEO/Chair positions in 2020. Reports have also shown that in the last ten years, less than 1% of venture capital investment in the UK went to Black entrepreneurs, and Black female entrepreneurs received just 0.02% of investment.

In cohort 1, 29 Oxford University students from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds undertook eight-week online Summer placements with high-growth start-ups from the Oxford Foundry’s portfolio of accelerated businesses. The start-ups are tackling world-scale problems including climate change, healthcare equity, and cybersecurity. Read more about why working for a start-up can boost careers.

We opened the call for applications in April 2021 and received almost 100 applications from students. After some very difficult decision making, we selected 29 student fellows to participate in the programme. As well as a funded eight-week placement with a start-up from the OXFO Elevate portfolio, the Fellows took part in an intensive leadership programme. The below figures give an insight into the experience.

In total the fellows received:

  • 15 Roundtables with the fellowship Ambassadors
  • 15 interactive skills workshops
  • 116 hours of 1-1 personal development coaching
  • 270+ hours of mentoring sessions
  • 2237+ hours of learning

The Foundry’s ethos has always been surrounded by leveraging on entrepreneurship to change lives:

  • 6 of the fellows have been offered a job or further opportunity to work with their start-up.
  • 100% said the fellowship improved their self-confidence.
  • 100% gained clarity on their future career plans.
  • 80% said they were inspired to pursue a career in Venture Capital.
  • 87% said that they one day aspire to start their own business.
  • 87% are equipped with tools to pursue & be successful in their desired career pathway.
  • 88% indicated improvement in clarity & understanding of their career landscape and opportunities following the program.

In September, we hosted a showcase to give the fellows the opportunity to share their experiences. Watch the highlights of the showcase



Application was open 22 April- 14 May 2021. For further information, visit our FAQs page.

The OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellows will gain critical skills and experience in venture building areas including product development, customer acquisition, financial modelling, and sales and marketing, as well as entrepreneurial and leadership capabilities including creative thinking, complex problem-solving, building resilience, and leadership under pressure. The initiative will also focus on helping Fellows to identify their personal and professional goals and ambitions and will provide tailored opportunities and pathways to help them achieve them.

Crucially, the programme will provide Fellows with a platform and strong support community of peers to help navigate and combat the barriers and biases which regrettably still systemically exist in entrepreneurship.

World-leading entrepreneurs and business leaders have been brought together across geographical boundaries, disciplines, and sectors to provide active support as Ambassadors to the Fellows. They, along with a Mentor Network of more than 50 exceptional people at different stages in their careers, including Oxford University alumni, will support the Fellows with their key learning and career objectives and provide a lifelong community.

The Ambassadors include Ric Lewis, Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Tristan Capital, Baroness Shriti Vadera, Chair of Prudential plc, Dr Acha Leke, Chairman of McKinsey’s Africa region, Angela Ahrendts DBE, former Senior Vice President of Apple Retail and former CEO of Burberry, and Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter, and Chair of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, and Oxford Foundry Advisory Board members including Mohamed Amersi, Chair of The Amersi Foundation, Phil Libin, Co-founder & CEO, All Turtles, Pete Flint, Founder, former chairman & CEO, Trulia, and General Partner of NFX, and Alexsis de Raadt St James, Founder & Managing Partner, Merian Ventures.

See the full list of Ambassadors and mentors, including members of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, and their biographies. If you're interested in becoming an Ambassador or mentor please get in touch.

The Oxford Foundry aims to scale the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative to a larger number of participants from other under-represented groups in the coming years. The Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative is generously supported by Santander Universities.

Ensuring equality and fairness in entrepreneurship and leadership is central to the Oxford Foundry’s mission. Oxford Foundry Booster grants have funded entrepreneurial activity within student societies, including the Oxford African and Caribbean Society and Oxford Africa Society, and the Oxford Foundry supported the launch of Oxford University’s first scholarships for Black British students from disadvantaged backgrounds with Oxford Foundry Honorary Advisor Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital.

The Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative is a positive action measure under s.158 of the Equality Act 2010. The OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellowship Scheme is generously supported by Santander Universities and each OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellow will receive a bursary in line with the National Living Wage.

The Oxford Foundry was set up in October 2017 by Saïd Business School for the benefit of the whole University. 

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford University, and member of the OXFO Academic Steering Committee, said: 

“The under-representation of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students in higher education, academia and entrepreneurship, is well documented, and something that the University continues to strive to address. Closing the opportunity gap for all Oxford students and promoting inclusion and fairness in entrepreneurship is at the heart of the Oxford Foundry’s mission. This fantastic programme will take that work a step further towards supporting and guiding the careers of the innovation leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” 

Ana Bakshi, Director of the Oxford Foundry, said: 

“Companies with the most ethnically and culturally diverse boards worldwide are 43% more likely to experience higher profits. Our new Fellowships provide dedicated networks, opportunities, and support to set Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students up for life, and get them on an equitable footing in what is unfortunately still an unfair and inequitable world of work. Change is not happening fast enough. We need collective action not just intentions, and that is why having role models and mentors from every level, and at each stage on our Fellows’ journeys, is so vital. 

Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not – and that is the primary focus of our Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative; to provide access to the support and career pathways all students need to succeed when they need it most. Now is the time to invest and to make this a reality. We have the potential to dramatically shift the landscape of people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and other under-represented groups within senior leadership positions, and to substantially, and sustainably, improve fairness within our global entrepreneurial ecosystems. We can create a world that is reflective of the world we want, and it all starts with education and entrepreneurship.”

Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter, and Chair, Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, said: 

“We want to create a world with substantially more people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in senior leadership positions in entrepreneurship and venture capital. That’s why a central focus of our strategy at the Oxford Foundry has always been to democratize access to the opportunities, networks and resources they need to succeed. This all starts with education, and higher education institutions have a pivotal role in setting the culture, values and skillsets of our future workforce.  
The three-tier learning experience will provide lifelong learning and networks for Fellows, and in turn opportunities for businesses and VCs to learn about how to change the face of entrepreneurship and venture capital. To see so many high-profile entrepreneurs, across different countries, join me in being an ambassador to the Fellows, along with a huge number of mentors at different stages of their careers, is testament to the barriers and boundaries that can be broken when we all join together.”

Sean Sinanan, President of the Oxford African and Caribbean Society (Oxford ACS), and a third-year undergraduate studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Mansfield College, said: 

“There is an unspoken dilemma that many students face. You either enter a corporate career upon graduation or find something else. However, the incredibly important work of the Oxford Foundry via these Fellowships helps mitigate this issue. The Fellowships inspire students from under-represented backgrounds to tap into their own creativity and explore alternative pathways in a sector that has been wrongly deemed as risky. The prospects of high-level mentorship to develop skills, paired with work experience in exciting start-ups which also have a social impact, not only demystifies the venture capital world but also offers a genuinely unique opportunity for students who are not interested in ‘traditional’ career paths. I am extremely excited to promote this to the Oxford ACS. I have seen how creative and ambitious students of the society are – and thus, I believe this Fellowship Initiative will truly nurture and empower such talents.”

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Chair of Prudential plc, said: 

“Equality and equity should be fundamental pillars within any organisation. It’s encouraging to see the Oxford Foundry providing guaranteed placements, mentorship, networks, and leadership support for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students at a critical time in their careers. Universities are uniquely positioned to influence the future face of leadership so initiatives like the Foundry’s are vital and timely. I’m looking forward to seeing the first Fellowship cohort thrive and become future leaders.”

Arunma Oteh, former Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank, said: 

“The Oxford Foundry’s Entrepreneurial Fellowships are an exceptional initiative that will contribute to building a solid pipeline of talented people, from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, for senior leadership positions. This will in turn enhance the UK’s competitiveness as diversity of leadership facilitates innovation and corporate success. 

Indeed, there is substantial evidence that diversity brings many advantages to an organisation, notably, increased creativity, better problem-solving abilities, and stronger governance. Diversity also enables organisations to become more resilient, effective, and profitable. For example, a Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams had 19% higher revenues due to innovation. Diversity should be an integral part of any successful revenue-generating business. I, therefore, hope that many more universities and organisations, backed by the government and the private sector, can emulate this exemplary initiative.” 

Angela Ahrendts DBE, Former SVP, Apple Retail, and CEO, Burberry, said: 

“The most successful global companies put people first. It’s people that drive creativity, and people whose passion and ingenuity when combined with technology can enrich all our lives on a global scale. The Entrepreneurial Fellowships put people front and centre. They break down barriers and create pathways for people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to be able to push forward with their career ambitions. Crucially they help to ensure that leadership of our FTSE 100 companies looks far different to how it does today, and that everyone has equitable access to the resources, capital and networks they need to lead and scale a business.”   

Dr Elisha Kipkemoi Ngetich MBChB, MSc, President, Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc), Rhodes Scholar, DPhil in Surgical Sciences at Green Templeton College, said: 

“As the President of Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc), it makes me extremely happy to see the Oxford Foundry making a deliberate effort to bridge the existing gap in representation of the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic community in leadership and entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative will provide Oxford students of ethnic minority heritage with not only the critical skills in leadership and entrepreneurship but also, an opportunity to network and get mentorship with key stakeholders in the field. This is a massive step in the right direction as it will give the students a competitive advantage and edge in various career paths. My hope is that this project will grow to take in more students of ethnic minority heritage in the coming years.”

Dr Acha Leke, Chairman of McKinsey’s Africa region, said: 

"Universities and other educational establishments have an all-important role of helping to address the inequalities we see in business and leadership positions by providing a stepping-stone for people of colour. Having co-founded various institutions which aim to develop future African leaders and experienced first-hand what it’s like to start out in business, I’m confident that scaling initiatives such as the Oxford Foundry’s Entrepreneurial Fellowships will ultimately help more Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic founders have an easier path, and ensure more role models for future generations. My hope is that this will have a knock-on effect, not only in the UK but around the globe."

Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer, and member of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board said: 

“Successful innovation requires diversity of thought, diversity of action, and diverse leadership. Initiatives like the Oxford Foundry’s Entrepreneurial Fellowships, which help ensure equality and equity, are critical to ensuring the success of our future workforce and economies. As the pace of change in the world accelerates, we need people from all backgrounds to lead our businesses, create innovation, and ensure that new technologies like AI are built by all – for a better future -- for all.”

Ric Lewis, Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Tristan Capital, said: 

"In 2021, as much as ever, we need to continue to work to improve access and opportunities for young people around the world. I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Entrepreneurial Fellowships and support the Oxford Foundry as an initiative that is working hard to remove major barriers to the aspiration and achievements of the next generation. With more dedicated initiatives like this, I hope we can really start to see more people from Black, Asian, and Ethnic and other under-represented groups and backgrounds in senior leadership positions, and heading up our global businesses and enterprises.”

Pete Flint, Founder, Trulia, Managing Partner, NFX, and member of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, said: 

“It is undeniable that diversity is good for society and for business. With so many studies highlighting that diversity leads to increased innovation and increased profitability, we need as many people as possible to break down barriers and find ways to make entrepreneurship and venture capital as equitable as possible. The Fellowships are a bold way to do this, and are very greatly welcomed. I look forward to being an Ambassador and meeting the first cohort of Fellows.”

Mohamed Amersi, Chair, The Amersi Foundation and member of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, said:

“Diversity, like anything worth having, requires effort. It is our responsibility as citizens to do everything we can to work towards our shared goal of an equal and fair society for all, however small the first step may feel. The Fellowships are a positive step towards our vision, and will greatly improve the career pathways of students from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.”

Dean Peter Tufano, Peter Moores Dean, Professor of Finance at Saïd Business School, Advisor to the Oxford Foundry and Vice-Chair of the OXFO Academic Steering Committee

“At Saïd Business School, we are committed to equity and inclusion in entrepreneurship and we are striving to create a level playing field for underrepresented groups, including Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students. I am proud that The Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative will allow us to be proactive in this support and I’m looking forward to collaborating with the inspiring ambassadors and mentors who have joined us to support these outstanding Fellows.”

Meet the 29 2020-21 OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellows here