It’s become commonplace in America to accept the idea that the most promising entrepreneurs are generally young, white, elite males from Silicon Valley. All too often this is the face of ingenuity in our country, dominating magazine covers and TV and movie screens. But the truth is that great entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, genders and colors – and many from what has become known as “flyover” country between our coasts.
So why does the misperception matter anyway? Put simply, because we aren’t tapping the full potential of innovation and ingenuity in our nation. It turns out that there is an exciting opportunity to seize, if we focus on lifting up neglected classes of entrepreneurs and bringing mentorship, support networks and access to capital to help them flourish. A more inclusive approach to cultivating our nation’s entrepreneurs can help strengthen our communities with new enterprises and jobs, and bring new innovations that can reach a broader range of people.
The data is clear: today less than 10% of venture-backed companies have at least one woman founder and less than 1% have an African American founder. Yet data also shows women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse leadership teams provide greater returns for investors. This means that there are a tremendous number of women entrepreneurs and founders of color who are unrecognized, unfunded and under-leveraged. The time has come to change the narrative of how we talk about entrepreneurs in America, to break down the stereotypes and to disrupt the outdated myths of what an entrepreneur can look like, or where they come from.
#FacesofFounders, launched this past week at the White House during the first-ever South by South Lawn (SXSL) festival, engages investors, ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs who are equally committed to expanding support for inclusive networks and inspiring others to launch scalable companies that can change the world. These include organizations like the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), headed by Alejandra Castillo, that works to enhance the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises, and CODE2040, launched by Laura Weidman Powers, a nonprofit that creates pathways to success in technology for Black and Latino founders.
At the Case Foundation, our work in the inclusive entrepreneurship movement has enabled us to find and champion a number of similar organizations committed to increasing the number of venture-backed minority-founded companies. For instance, PowerMoves, originally launched in New Orleans, has helped more than 100 companies founded by diverse entrepreneurs across the U.S. secure more than $27 million in capital since its founding in 2014. And Ohio-based JumpStart Inc. is providing intensive, high-impact assistance, including the recent launch of a $10 million seed capital Focus Fund for diverse entrepreneurs, which will invest in technology companies that led by women entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs of color or businesses that focus on the African-American and Latino communities. Monique Woodard recently made headlines when she joined 500 Startups, a startup accelerator in the midst of raising a $25 million dollar micro-fund focused on founders of color. And Kapor Capital, led by Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor, has committed more than $40 million to initiatives designed to give unrepresented minorities opportunities to launch and grow their companies.
Read the full story at Forbes.