A white founder asked, “What can I do as the founder of a very early-stage startup? ” The group gave various suggestions that included the obvious (or at least I would hope it’s obvious), “When you are growing your team, consider hiring Black team members,” or “When you are considering an investment from an investor, press them about the diversity of their current portfolio founders.
In the spirit of not only pointing out systemic racism in the startup space, here is a list of emerging Black founders, investors and startup ecosystem builders, curated by Denisha Kuhlor and me.
This got me thinking about VC Monique Woodard’s statement that “Black founders are often overmentored and underinvested. ” In June, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and open dialogue about anti-Blackness, we saw a slew of investors rushing to offer mentorship to Black founders.
The quick emphasis on mentorship made me ask myself: How are the contributions of Black people (founders, investors, operators, etc. ) to the startup space seen?
As a former founder, I can confidently say that most Black founders simply want a fair shot at presenting their startups to investors.
Some of the investors don’t have Black founders among their portfolio companies so to some onlookers, this rush to help Black founders was seen as insincere and a marketing ploy.
It is also interesting to note the percentage of Black guests decreased by 2% from 2018 to 2019 and incidentally increased by 2% for white guests during that span.
The prevailing system of needing a warm introduction to access investors puts founders, especially Black founders, who don’t have the same networks as investors at a disadvantage.
The percentage of Black female guests within the female gender pool drastically decreased by 10% while white female guests increased by 21% in the two-year time period.
Also interesting to note that of those 15 Black guests, three were celebrities (a comedian, a TV personality and a rapper), two of whom were featured twice.
Although offers of mentorship are certainly welcome, the constant barriers Black founders tell me they struggle with are access to capital and networks, not a lack of talent or business savvy.
I dug into the 2018 and 2019 guest lists of three of my favorite startup-related podcasts: “This Week In Startups,” “How I Built This With Guy Raz” and “The Twenty Minute VC. ” These are all top-ranked podcasts with tens of millions in downloads and over half a million subscribers.