About Us

“Let’s reimagine young black men 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.
So 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.

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 a result 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. In 2106 City Startup Labs is establishing the Center of Excellence for Entrepreneurial Competency, Innovation and Leadership (CoE) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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

Henry Rock

Henry Rock, Founder & Executive Director

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 young men of color.

Henry sees tremendous opportunity for improving the economic health of inner-city America, if we engage these young men as entrepreneurial change agents.

City Startup Labs’ is establishing a Center of Excellence for entrepreneurial competency, innovation and leadership.