Jaylon Smith (303975)
Jaylon Smith Credit: The Jaylon Smith MEI

For the past three years, Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowler Jaylon Smith and his agency — the Jaylon Smith Minority Entrepreneurship Institute (MEI) — have supported eight early-stage ventures led by Black founders and invested more than $800,000 in capital across marketplaces in Texas and Indiana — all of which have presented $13 million in investable opportunities, reports Afro Tech.

This week, his agency announced the third annual MEI Florida Showcase and Pitch Competition in Tampa, which will hone in on business ideas from Black, Latinx and women entrepreneurs.

The annual competition is supported by a plethora of dedicated companies and individuals who all believe in closing the racial wealth gap for minorities in America.

“I am so excited for our third annual MEI Showcase,” Smith shared in a statement. “The entrepreneurs from Indiana and Texas were outstanding and I am looking forward to supporting minority-owned businesses in Florida!”

According to a press release shared with AfroTech, Crunchbase reported that Black and Latinx founders raised a total of $2.3 billion in funding, only representing just 2.6 percent of the total $87.3 billion in funding allocated to all founders last year.

In an effort to close that gap, the MEI pitch competition offers business owners a chance to pitch to a star-studded panel of celebrity judges and compete for a prize of $200,000 in capital.

Judges for this year’s competition include Smith, founder of MEI; Arron Solano, Managing Partner at Calano; Derrick Brooks, former NFL Linebacker and Hall-of-Famer; and Allie Felix, VP of Platform at Embarc Collective.