Those who fund technology and innovation have an opportunity at this current moment to make some lasting, structural changes and, by doing so, support the movement to change our world for the better.
This is a time for amplifying, standing with and supporting the millions of people raising their voices, and help in translating their protests into practices that will endure and create a future that is better than the past.
If you are a public or private sector entity that is in the business of funding tech research and development (R&D) and startup companies, I hope you will use this opportunity to revamp, if needed, your current approaches and practices regarding how you fund and in what communities you show up in, which is directly correlated to who you end up funding.
Some food for thought:
- Be willing to educate AND be educated in turn.
- Focusing on minority entrepreneurs is not the same as focusing on black entrepreneurs. I am a south Asian person of color who regularly encounters many south Asian and Asian founders in the tech community, but rarely encounters a Black founder. That needs to change!
- Focusing solely on STEM is not the same as focusing on Black entrepreneurs. I won’t belabor this obvious point!
- Proactively engage the portions of the ecosystem that focus on the Black tech community (Universities, accelerators, meetups etc.) to convey the opportunities you have in your programs. Don’t wait or expect them to come to you or even be aware of you!
- Multitrack your investments. I am a firm believer in the value of simultaneously funding multiple companies in order to explore different options to solve the same problem. Diversity of thought, life experience and culture make a real difference in the quality of solutions!
- Expand your equity and intellectual property (IP) strategy. My anecdotal experience is that many female founders and minority founders are less willing to give up their ownership or IP in exchange for funding. So, if you have options that can address those aspects, you are more liable to be successful reaching those founders and companies.
The above is very much random and not any type of cohesive or comprehensive list as I am still thinking thru this. I fully expect that this list will change, morph, and expand as I hopefully have further conversations on this topic with folks who are willing to share their experiences and wisdom with me.
I look forward to being part of that conversation!