JumpStart Inc.’s Focus Fund Makes The Case For Inclusion

Fast Company is encouraged by the progress of the $10 million Focus Fund for women and minority entrepreneurs, which is led by Cleveland-based JumpStart Inc.

The Focus Fund made its first call for business plans in January, according to the story. It has been “inundated with hundreds of applications,” says Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart.

“There’s pretty significant demand,” Leach tells Fast Company. “We weren’t sure what the response would be.”

For the Focus Fund, JumpStart “will select about 20 companies and invest an average of $500,000 in each, ranging anywhere from $250,000 to $600,000 depending on the company’s needs,” according to the story. “Since this is a public-private fund, with the state of Ohio pumping money into it as well, JumpStart has committed to making all the investments in 36 months, starting this spring.”

Entrepreneurs who receive funding will have to relocate to Ohio to participate in the program.

The fund is backed by Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, and is aimed at a very specific problem: “Between 2011 and 2013, companies with a female CEO got only 3% of the total venture capital dollars available. That’s $1.5 billion out of the total $50.8 billion invested in that two year period — a tiny slice of the pie,” Fast Company notes.

Leach and others acknowledge the Focus Fund is just a start in addressing the problem, telling the magazine, “$10 million in the grand scheme of things should not be all that meaningful, but the fact that it is says something. Hopefully this will get other folks focused on this market segment.”

Fast Company notes that Leach “has become an activist on diversity in tech and chairs a task force at the National Venture Capital Association on the topic.” He first met Steve Case — co-founder of America Online and husband of Jean Case — when they worked together on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, early in the Obama administration.

The magazine says the two kept in touch, and Steve Case visited Cleveland and JumpStart in 2011.

“We’ve been looking at this issue for a long time,” Leach says. “Now people are beginning to pay attention to it. But it may take another three years, or even 10 years, for diversity to become a part of the game.”

Beyond borders

David Leopold, a Cleveland lawyer who formerly headed the American Immigration Lawyers Association, is quoted in this Reuters story, which says U.S. immigration enforcement officers “are proposing that fingerprints be taken from all people claiming custody of children who have entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, a measure that opponents said could keep thousands of families apart.”

The news service says that as “a new wave of unaccompanied Central American children pours across the U.S.-Mexico border, the proposal underscores the sometimes conflicting goals of federal agencies in dealing with undocumented immigrants, a volatile issue on the presidential campaign trail.”

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is ultimately responsible for finding housing for migrant children, tell Reuters they have no plans to change fingerprinting policy. They said the proposal — made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in an internal memo seen by Reuters — “would delay family reunions and infringe upon the parent-child relationship,” according to the story.

Reuters notes that immigration advocates say the ICE proposal would discourage parents from sending for their children and claiming them, fearing that ICE would use fingerprinting to trace undocumented immigrants for possible deportation.

Leopold tells the news service, “It could keep parents away from their children if they think it is going to land them in a lock-up somewhere.”

Read the full story at Crain’s Cleveland Business.