Above. (L-R) Meher Rehman, herDomain, Lemaire Stewart and Kyle Miller, Goodfynd discuss traction at Seed Spot’s Impact Accelerator. Credit: Seed Spot.
As I pulled together what I’ve been up to over the past couple of weeks since my last post, the through line was money. In the past few weeks I’ve been a teach and a student of entrepreneurship, money, success and wealth. Now, in the middle of Black History month, I’m thinking about what it means for 12PointFive and for my focus in 2019.
1. Selling is the best way to make money
It seems simple. But the focus of many forums for entrepreneurs tends to be access to capital through investment. It’s true that diverse founders are underrepresented when it comes to funding. I’ll get to that later. But when it came time for us to develop another Mentorship Roadshow supported by a Beacon DC Grant, we – 12PointFive, Hera Hub, and Innovators Box – decided to educate and energize DMV women business owners around growing their sales. We brought the entrepreneurs through their sales funnel, pitching, networking and closing. We reinforced the fundamentals and brought some new energy to the most important part of their businesses. I’ll be writing a bit more about Mentorship Roadshow in an upcoming guest blog post at Hera Hub but it was, in a word, transformational.
2. Sales is not the only thing necessary for catalytic growth
For some businesses, on the other hand, the catalyst of venture funding is an imperative. Last week, I went to meet up with the CEO and Co-Founder of Street Investors Exchange, Bethany Quinn. I am an advisor to the organization whose mission aligns with my purpose, to help more people achieve economic independence and success by creating a platform for groups who are traditionally underrepresented in venture capital to get a foot in the door. As Bethany put it, SIEX is “transforming social mobility in the United States.” And if you question the need for the transformation, read the article which revealed the wealth disparity between black and white Americans in Boston was so shocking people thought it was a typo. Which brings me to the next bullet point.
3. The wealth game in the U.S. is rigged
That evening, Bethany invited me to go with her to Broccoli Bar to hear a panel of two venture capitalists, Stefanie Thomas from Impact America and Ade Omitowoju from 1863 Ventures, moderated by Chinedu Enekwe, the Founder and Managing Partner at Affiniti VC. It was the second in Affiniti’s Champion Series (so don’t miss the next one on March 19th!)
The topic of the series, and the evening, was demystifying venture capital for women and people of color who are traditionally left out of the conversation. The evidence for the need to bring VC to more communities is overwhelming. There are the stats that show the low representation of people of color in tech, which is especially minimal for black women to the oft quoted and very depressing statistic that black women are also underrepresented in venture capital, receiving only 1% of funding. The dangers of an exclusive ecosystem for access to capital include perpetuating the wealth disparity between white, black and brown people and funding ventures that are further embedding bias and exclusion into their tech innovations.
The evening’s VCs alluded to the grim statistics. Stefanie is one of only 52 black women in venture in the U.S. And Ade quizzed the audience about the significance of 1863 in 1863 ventures, which refers to the year of the emancipation proclamation which abolished slavery in the U.S. The date recalls a time when wealth in this country was built on black and brown bodies who were not able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The significance of the name shows that the distribution of wealth in this country, or lack thereof, is a product of the racist underpinnings of our early economy in the U.S. Now, it is organizations like theirs that they are carving out a new way forward for the new majority. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the fact that the people who make up groups thought of as “minority” groups in the U.S. will actually constitute a majority of Americans in 30 years. The new majority will consist of historically underrepresented groups.
4. Organizations are working to level the playing field for entrepreneurial success and wealth in and outside the U.S.
It was great to hear Stefanie and Ade talk to a crowd relatively new to VC about the work they are doing to democratize access to capital for the new majority, from within a structure that has largely been white and male. More importantly, they are excited by the innovation they are able to support with their funding that may have been missed by other VCs.
I started 12PointFive to give diverse founders a boost in getting access to corporate contacts but sales and product fit is not the whole story when it comes to who is successful and what ventures become household names. In fact, because we have a lack of diversity in these spaces, we perpetuate the same problems we look to innovation to solve. With this in mind, last night I spoke to Seed Spot’s latest cohort of entrepreneurs who are growing their business and looking for capital to succeed. My role was as a content expert with Duane McKnight to talk about traction and what investors want to see. We were able to have a freewheeling conversation with a very passionate, and diverse, group of entrepreneurs who are building successful businesses while making the world a better and more equitable place. The entrepreneurs in the picture above are Meher Rehman from herDomain who is connecting female tech talent to major companies along with Lemaire Stewart and Kyle Miller of Goodfynd who are helping make food trucks more accessible to their biggest fans by delivering their food that last mile.
5. You can get involved
I encourage anyone who like me is interested in accelerating the success of the new majority to attend the next in to check out organizations like SIEX, Impact America and 1863 ventures and Seed Spot. Get educated to understand how the legacy of slavery and wealth disparity still affects our institutions today. Get involved see what you can do to add your funds, time and attention. For example, Affiniti VC has a survey for Limited Partner Allocations to Emerging and Diverse Fund Managers. Spread the word. I’m always happy to make an intro and connect you to the organizations I have relationship with. Get in touch!