About Us

“Let’s reimagine African American millennials as a new class of entrepreneurial change agents.”


City Startup Labs (CSL) grew out of an idea to do something thoughtful and of real value to address the issue of the employability of young men of color. African American men,  in particular, have a difficult time getting and keeping jobs. They consistently lag behind their white and Hispanic counterparts. According to a Princeton University study, “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets,” Even without criminal records, black applicants had low rates of positive responses, about the same as the response rate for white applicants with criminal records. Hispanics also faced discrimination by employers, but were preferred relative to blacks.

In the late Summer of 2011, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg announced the Young Men’s Initiative to address the harsh present and future facing many young men of color from the ages of 14-24 years. The intention of the initiative is to focus on education, the criminal justice system, employment and health care. What was missing from this puzzle, in my estimation was attention on self-employment and entrepreneurship.

As an answer to this gap, CSL was created to provide an academy of instruction, training, mentoring and coaching to prepare these young men to become viable entrepreneurs, thereby contributing to not only themselves, but their families, communities and the country in a fundamentally positive way. Rather than rely on others to define and write their future, it’s time that these young men to be empowered to write or rewrite their own script, by becoming a new class of entrepreneurs.

Pre-Great Recession, black men, 18-34 years were nearly a third more likely to start businesses than white males of the same age.

The CSL program (a hybrid accelerator/incubator) is unique, in its focus on this population and the process of building three classes of assets — human capital, social capital and economic capital. All areas where Charlotte needs to strengthen its position of 50th among the TOP 50 markets for socio-economic mobility.

Through a 2-year pilot with the Urban League, and the 2016 establishment of a Center of Excellence for Entrepreneurial Competency, Innovation and Leadership (CoE) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, City Start-Up Labs has been able to educate over 60 new entrepreneurs. Of those from the pilot, 6 ventures are now up and running (2017).

And in 2017, CSL took a different turn and has gone Co-Ed. The demand from women of color to participate, as well as the desire to not leave innovation on the sideline provided the impetus to cast a wider net. Another new initiative in 2018 will involve addressing returning citizens (the formerly incarcerated).

City Startup Labs embraces not only entrepreneurs, technologists, innovators, but also the makers, inventors, designers and creatives, as well as part of building a vibrant eco-system of entrepreneurial change agents.

Rock has extensive experience in sales, marketing, advertising, media management and small business strategic planning and development, with particular emphasis on black businesses and the black consumer market. It’s this background, coupled with not wanting to be a bystander, that has him focused on the development of African American millennials.

Henry Rock – Founder and Executive Director



 For more information about interviews, articles, speeches, etc. (see below)






To contact Henry Rock for interviews, articles and speaking engagements – inquire at: contact_point@citystartuplabs.com