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For Betty Francisco, new startup fund puts money with disadvantaged entrepreneurs

BII in the Media

A Globe business feature highlights BII Fund II and its mission through the perspective of CEO Betty Francisco, a Latina entrepreneur herself:

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Betty Francisco remembers all too well how hard it was to find financing for her startup fitness business, Reimagine Play. She had established a professional network in the city, first as an attorney for dot-coms and venture capital firms and later as in-house counsel for Sports Club/LA.

But she also knew that very little of the startup capital in Boston went to Latina entrepreneurs like her.

Her fitness business did not pan out. But Francisco is helping dozens of other entrepreneurs of color avoid similar hardships as the chief executive of the Boston Impact Initiative, a nonprofit fund manager. BII’s first fund placed some $7 million with about 50 businesses. Francisco recently launched the second fund, aiming to raise $20 million to support entrepreneurs of color and community-governed real estate; so far, BII has raised about $3 million. Both of these funds are debt funds in which investors receive promissory notes rather than stock, and BII invests both debt and equity into the startups that benefit. Investments in the new fund can range from $1,000 to $25,000 for people with ordinary means, and from $10,000 to $3 million for accredited investors and philanthropies.

The second fund will broaden BII’s geographic reach to include more of Massachusetts beyond Greater Boston, as well as other New England states.