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29 University of Oxford students from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have been awarded a Fellowship through our OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative, the first of its kind for the University of Oxford, which was announced in The Times in April.

The Fellows will undertake fully funded eight-week training placements with high-growth start-ups from the Oxford Foundry’s extensive portfolio of accelerated ventures, tackling world-scale problems including climate change, healthcare equity, and cybersecurity.

The Fellowships were set up to level a historically unequal playing field. With less than 1% of venture capital investment in the UK going to Black entrepreneurs and just 3.3% of FTSE 100 chairs, CEOs, and CFOs being from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, universities have a huge role to play in investing and creating a world more reflective of the one we want to see. This Fellowship Initiative actively puts forward a programme that provides true equity of opportunity, highlighting the proactive investment of time, funding, resource, and networks. We want to break down barriers for people of colour to pursue careers in entrepreneurship and venture capital as well as wider business leadership positions.

Our long-term ambition is for similar initiatives to be embedded across every university in the UK, ensuring as a nation we critically build and nurture a more diverse and inclusive future workforce and leadership pool to shift national perceptions on people’s access to finance and business hierarchy.

My journey to Oxford required a lot of self-motivation, taking initiative, and practice as I’m not a typical candidate. As a student, I‘m amazed by the number of opportunities that there are but still see stumbling blocks faced by people due to arbitrary characteristics like race and social background.

“I hope that through the Fellowship, I’ll learn skills in entrepreneurship that’ll enable me to create profitable and innovative ideas. I'd also love to build confidence in my ideas through the scheme and learn how to work within new and fast-growing organisations in a way that contributes to their growth and uniqueness. I want to address issues regarding accessibility - especially regarding class, race, and disability - and would love to use my new skills to create ideas that might help people held back by these aspects of their lives.

Sekela Ngamilo
Undergraduate in Law (Jurisprudence), Lincoln College

Selection of the Fellows was a very competitive process, with close to 100 applications and 40 students invited to interview. Over 50% of applicants who applied wanted to gain product and venture building skills to accelerate an idea of their own that they’re working on, whilst others applied to gain exposure to alternative career pathways, transferable skills and self-belief, with several applicants being the first generation of their family to go to university.

Through this dynamic programme, Fellows will be supported to identify their personal and professional goals and ambitions and provided with tailored opportunities to achieve them. More than 70 world-leading entrepreneurs, business leaders, and exceptional people at different stages in their careers have been brought together across geographical boundaries, disciplines, and sectors to provide active support as ambassadors and mentors to the Fellows. They include Oxford University alumni and will support the Fellows with their key learning and career objectives and provide a lifelong community.

The Ambassadors include Baroness Shriti Vadera, Chair of Prudential plc, Ric Lewis, Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Tristan Capital, 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 Chair of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board, Florence "Cuppy" Ifeoluwa Otedola - Nigerian disc jockey and record producer, as well as Oxford Foundry Advisory Board members including Chair, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, 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, Alexsis de Raadt St James, Founder & Managing Partner, Merian Ventures, Kevin Roberts, former CEO and Executive Chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi, and Marcus East, CDO of T-Mobile USA. See a full list here

The Entrepreneurial Fellowship is ideal for me and has come at the perfect time. I hope to use the skills developed from the Fellowship to continue to provide advice, direction, and tangible support to my peers in their venture, and act as a resource, motivator, and advisor to my peers. I love the dynamic, forward-thinking mission of the Oxford Foundry and believe it’s one of the most important institutions at the university.

Noah Wilson
Undergraduate, PPE, St Catherine's College

The skills and mindsets the Fellows will be supported to gain will include everything from 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. Crucially, the initiative will also provide Fellows with a platform and strong support community of peers to help navigate and combat the barriers and biases which still exist in entrepreneurship and business.

As role models to us all, Fellows will be trailblazing a path that will help support and empower others who follow in their footsteps.

The OXFO Entrepreneurial Fellows are:

Ahamed Abthal Careem Monir, Undergraduate, History, Oriel College placement at Dronestream
Alina Salahuddin, Undergraduate, History and Economics, Balliol College placement at Omnipresent
Anisha Jagdev-Harris, Undergraduate, Classics and Modern Languages, St John's College placement at Yoxly
Anthony Akinwale, DPhil, Materials Science, St Catherine's College placement at OxCan
Becky Hu, Undergraduate, Engineering Science, Lady Margaret Hall placement at Mitra bio
Carolle Kinyua, Strategy and Innovation PGDip, St Edmund Hall placement at iLoF
Daniel Goh, Undergraduate, Engineering Science, Keble College placement at Kindworks.AI
Dennis Martey, Public Policy MPP, Mansfield College placement at Oxwash
Divya Popat, DPhil, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Jesus College placement at PIPRA AG
Emerald Ace-Acquah, Undergraduate, Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics, Lady Margaret Hall placement at VOCSTA
Heena Nathoo, Master of Business Administration MBA, St Hugh's College placement at Hedgeflows
Hussain Sarfraz, Undergraduate, placement at Goodbye Malaria* (non-OXFO venture)
Jafar Said, Education (Higher Education) MSc, Lady Margaret Hall placement at TradeLink
Keivan Samani, DPhil, Fusion Energy, St Catherine’s College placement at Ufonia
Malak Khalil, World Literatures in English MSt, Balliol College placement at Sociability
Michael Smith, Modern Languages, St Peter's College placement at Boresha Technologies
Mutsa Matanga, Master of Business Administration MBA, Kellogg College placement at Ammonite
Noah Wilson, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), St Catherine's College placement at Infogrid
Payas Sinha, Engineering Science, Brasenose College placement at Neumind
Rosaria Rosaria, DPhil, Zoology, St Edmund Hall placement at OxCan
Roxana Akhmetova, DPhil, Migration Studies, Keble College placement at Oxwash
Sean Sinanan, Undergraduate, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), Mansfield College placement at Checkstep
Sekela Ngamilo, Undergraduate, Law (Jurisprudence), Lincoln College placement at Lantana Publishing
Shaan Pattni, MSc African Studies, St Antony's College placement at Oxwash
Tehillah Campbell, Undergraduate, Materials Science, St Edmund Hall placement at Kindworks.AI
Temilorun Olanipekun, MSc African Studies, St Antony's College placement at Infogrid
Thomas Scanlon, MSc Environmental Governance, Christ Church placement at Ngenius
Yingxian ‘Claire’ Tang, MSc Oxford Internet Institute, Wolfson College placement at Scoodle
Yusuf Ben-Tarifite, Undergraduate, Medicine, Balliol College placement at Smash Medicine

Having worked with cutting-edge start-ups in my home country (Pakistan), the opportunity to closely engage with leading start-ups through this Fellowship is intensely exciting and being aware of how these can be true vessels of positive social change in whatever industry they operate within. Getting to learn from inspiring mentors and ambassadors during this programme, developing personally and professionally, and making use of the networks and opportunities that come along after its completion are all extremely thrilling prospects.

Alina Salahuddin
Undergraduate, History and Economics, Balliol College

Ana Bakshi, Executive Director of the Oxford Foundry said:

“The necessity for education today is to consciously focus on providing experiences that challenge our future leaders on the role they want to play in life. This includes guiding them on their future professional pathways, but also - and importantly - how they want to live their lives and what kind of leaders they want to be. The Entrepreneurial Fellowships are a fundamental part of that process. They not only provide an experiential educational experience but also reflect the necessity to highlight the differences between equality and equity and commit to creating more equitable opportunities for students of colour.

“Our Fellows give us hope, give the world hope, and my biggest ambition from this Fellowship Initiative is that it will serve them well in pursuing their passions, ambitions, and most of all, give them a platform to help those following their paths, and those they surround. I'm confident that in years to come, programmes like these will make a huge impact in ensuring the world we see tomorrow is more reflective of the one we want today.

Find out more about each of our Fellows and read their bios.