Announcing: the Access Fund — a $1M+ scholarship pool for underestimated talent, powered by the On Deck community.

 min read
September 24, 2020
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Growing the pie

Technology is a powerful force for good. But while its use has become ubiquitous, the ability to participate in its development and resulting wealth creation is far from widespread. 

Ask yourself: how does an idea go from a napkin to a conversation with potential users, then to code, and finally become a product? How about scaling as a business? If you’d even encountered these questions, let alone know how to answer them — you’re substantially ahead of the majority of the world’s population.

The tech industry has an “access” problem, and it’s never been more obvious than in 2020. 

Unlocking talent 

We think a lot about how to “unlock” talent at On Deck. 

As the world shelters in place, increasingly more polarized over economic, political and ideological differences, we’ve put out a “call to arms” for people who want to help build the future.

On Deck is on a mission to multiply the number of founders building world changing startups, and create the world’s best support ecosystem around them.

But for every person founding or working on an impactful company or cause today, there are hundreds who should be but can't.

18,000 people have applied to On Deck programs over the past few years. Many could be great founders or operators, but don't have the personal runway to leave their job and go full time exploring “what’s next”, and developing the network and skills to be impactful in this industry. Some have to fundraise prematurely. Others hack "on the side" for years, or never start at all.

Paying it forward

Over the past 12 months, we’ve awarded scholarships worth over $300,000 to around 250 people in need of financial aid. Recipients come from all walks of life. A majority came from under-represented groups in tech. 

Recently, a number of those individuals — having gone on to find success in their own subsequent journeys — have come back to us enquiring how they can contribute to support those coming behind them, to pay it forward to help those joining On Deck in the future.

Today, we’re excited to announce a program designed to formalize this powerful “receive then give back” dynamic.

The Access Fund — a “donor advised” scholarship fund for the next generation of underestimated, and underserved talent. 

We are thrilled to announce: The On Deck Access Fund, a donor advised scholarship fund (“DAF”) dedicated to supporting people who have the talent and drive to build great startups and progress their careers in technology, but may be from underserved communities (all backgrounds welcome), and haven't had access, incentives or resources to do so.

How it works:

  1. Apply, and be accepted to participate in an On Deck program
  2. Once you’ve been accepted, apply for a scholarship from the Access Fund, describing your situation and needs. The fund covers On Deck tuition.
  3. Once you’re “off deck” again — either found a job or started a company, we'd love for you to contribute back to the fund for future fellows. Make a tax one-off donation, or set up a recurring monthly/annual contribution by donating stock or cash via
  4. You’re now a contributing sponsor for life! You’ll receive regular updates on fund activity, and have the opportunity to mentor and connect with future grant recipients.

This “pay-it-forward” mentality personifies the spirit and values of the On Deck community. 

As it matures, this flywheel of receiving a grant → creating value → paying it forward will create a self-sustaining giving-machine, that we hope can give everyone the opportunity to start a company, and systematically reshape the technology sector to become more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming of voices from across humanity, and around the world. 

A culture is not a set of beliefs. It’s a set of actions. So to kick-start this flywheel, we are committing $250k upfront, and a further $1M in matching donations over the next 12 months. 

How do I donate? 

The Access Fund is a Donor Advisory Fund managed by, founded by On Deck Alumni Vance Roush (ODF2) and Kyle Woumn (ODF3). Donations to the Access Fund provide tax benefits. Click here to learn more and donate. 

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