Morgan Stanley Investment Management (MSIM) and the Multicultural Strategy Group has launched Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund to support diverse startups.

The fund, part of MSIM’s Private Credit & Equity platform, has Hearst, Microsoft and Walmart as initial investors.

It will back early-stage technology and technology-enabled outfits led by women or diverse members across sectors including technology, consumer/retail, financial technology, healthcare and media & entertainment.

Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund co-portfolio manager Alice Vilma remarked that the fund presents an exciting opportunity for disruptive startups to boost their visibility and drive their businesses with the support of our corporate partners.

Vilma added: “We are pleased to be partnering with Hearst, Microsoft and Walmart on this exciting new initiative which advances our respective companies’ goals to promote financial inclusion and access to capital for women and diverse founders.”

This new strategy will build upon Morgan Stanley’s in-house start-up accelerator Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab and HearstLab, which offers cash investment and services to early-stage, women-led startups.

Hearst executive vice-president and HearstLab chairperson Eve Burton will be a member of Next Level’s advisory board.

Burton said: “Hearst is delighted to partner with Morgan Stanley, Microsoft and Walmart in the Next Level Fund and to have the opportunity to support target companies and provide strategic assistance.

“This further augments our commitment to investing in women and diverse founders who are some of our best talent.”

MSIM head of private credit and equity David Miller said: “We are pleased to expand our impact-oriented client offerings with the addition of Next Level, and we are proud to partner with like-minded companies that share our commitment to delivering positive social impact through compelling investment opportunities.”

The Next Level Fund is operated out of Morgan Stanley’s New York headquarters. The company said it is expecting to partner with additional corporate organisations that share similar strategic interests.

Last month, Morgan Stanley hiked its stake in securities and fund management ventures in China as part of its strategy towards full control.