$2 Million Federal Grant to The Foundation Supports Underserved Tech Entrepreneurs

Pictured left to right: Brenda Oneal, LightSpeedEdu, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Arthur Thomas, The Community Foundation, Todd Howell, Mobile Media Marketing, Marie Rocha, Realist Lab, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Williams, The Community Foundation.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal Announces $2 million grant award. Kathleen Cei Photos

New Haven, Conn. (Dec. 8, 2023) — In the summer of 2023, the Connecticut e-learning company LightSpeedEdu rolled out a new product offering that helped it sign two big clients, including the department store chain Macy’s. The technology that won the business was built with grant funding that the company received from the New Haven Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (NHE3). More companies like LightSpeedEdu will have opportunities for expansion and growth with a $2 million infusion of federal funding to the NHE3 to support minority owned tech companies.

“Thank you to those who run these programs because they mean something. [With this funding] we were able to move forward,” said LightSpeedEdu CEO Brenda Oneal.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recently announced the $2 million federal grant The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s NHE3 program. The grant will fund a business support ecosystem for underserved tech entrepreneurs. The press announcement was held at Climate Haven, a climate tech incubator and coworking space that is part of the new consortium being funded by the grant, and included local officials and founders of Connecticut tech companies that will benefit from the grant.

“I hear from my colleagues in California about how big companies started in garages and backyards in Silicon Valley. We are making it possible for New Haven’s backyards and garages to spur technological innovation just in the way that Silicon Valley did,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “This $2 million federal grant is a force multiplier for our economy that will unlock additional economic forces and talent.”

Brenda Oneal, LightSpeedEdu
Brenda Oneal, CEO of LightSpeedEdu, a grant recipient of NHE3.

“I was proud to join Senator Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Justin Elicker, President Will Ginsberg of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, and all the local entrepreneurs and businesses gathered here today to celebrate $2,000,000 in “Build to Scale” funding from the United States Department of Commerce for the Connecticut Consortium for BIPOC Technologies,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). “This will accelerate inclusive entrepreneurship growth in our communities and help our economy thrive by making it more inclusive. As the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, I have fought for significant increases in EDA spending – and I am proud to have witnessed EDA spending soar from $264 million in 2019 to $1.53 billion in 2023. I am committed to creating opportunity in our communities and supporting our local businesses.”

Awarded through the EDA’s Build to Scale program, the grant will support The Community Foundation’s Connecticut Consortium for BIPOC Technologists, a regional business support ecosystem for technology entrepreneurs. The funding will help science and technology firms with growth potential expand through business accelerator programs and access to equity capital. Aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage founders will also be connected to successful technology firms.

The consortium being funded by the grant will support BIPOC-led firms in science and technology-based innovation industries including:

  • Bioscience
  • Software
  • Health/medical device technology
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Climate tech

The Community Foundation was one of 60 organizations from across the country to receive a Build to Scale grant award. The Community Foundation’s-Mission Investments Company’s New Haven Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (NHE3) will lead the Consortium. Key partners include Climate Haven, Realist Lab, Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC), and Yale University. (See EDA press release at eda.gov/news).

Will Ginsberg
Will Ginsberg addresses attendees at the Dec. 8 press conference.

“This is a moment of growth in our community. It is extraordinary to see the growth that is happening. The challenge is to make that growth more equitable. This grant from the EDA is all about how we build a community of greater opportunity and greater equity in Greater New Haven and Connecticut,” said The Community Foundation President and CEO Will Ginsberg.

The New Haven Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (NHE3)

NHE3 is a strategy of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Mission Investments Company (TCF-MIC), is building an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem for existing and emerging businesses with a focus on those that encounter structural and financial barriers and may not qualify for conventional financing opportunities. The NHE3 was awarded a $7.2 million grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to provide grants to small businesses through its website, e3connector.com.

Realist Labs

Realist Lab is a pioneering organization that leverages innovation to reimagine a more equitable future. It is committed to creating an inclusive business environment, catalyzing startup growth, revitalizing local economies, and making a positive social impact.

Connecticut Small Business Development Center

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center is an accredited member of America’s Small Business Development Center Network. Our mission is to help Connecticut businesses launch and grow in order to create jobs, increase business startups, and increase financial investment in the small business and entrepreneurial community. We are committed to providing economic equity to underserved businesses in order to help them access the resources and funding they need to maintain a successful business.


ClimateHaven is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to empower climate tech entrepreneurs in their efforts to develop innovative technologies that will enable their companies to scale and drive significant changes for our planet.

ClimateHaven is establishing a vibrant community that offers access to state-of-the-art facilities, tools, and laboratory spaces, plus a diverse range of supplementary resources such as mentorship and investment to further enhance our commitment to creating a resilient and sustainable future for all.

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s mission is to inspire, support, inform, listen to and collaborate with the people and organizations of Greater New Haven to build an ever more connected, inclusive, equitable and philanthropic community. Established in 1928, The Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the U.S and has been built by donors supporting a broad variety of issues and organizations. As the permanent charitable endowment for 20 towns in Greater New Haven, The Foundation is implementing a 5-year strategic plan to expand opportunity and equity in our region. Stepping Forward, a commitment addressing the impact of COVID-19 and advancing racial equity is also in place through 2023. For more information about The Foundation visit www.cfgnh.org or follow @cfgnh on facebook and twitter.