The inequalities in venture capital funding are well known, with women receiving 2.3% and black founders receiving 1.2% of venture capital dollars. The biases that lead to this unbalanced funding landscape are especially visible when there are founders who hold marginalized identities who build products in the same space as those with dominant identities, and are unfunded despite their lived experiences.
A recent example of this was news from diversity recruiting platform Canvas which raised a $ 50 million funding round. Canvas was founded by two white men who weren’t even looking to raise capital because they had raised $ 20 million a few months before. Professor Rodney Sampson, Executive Chairman and CEO of Opportunity Hub and General Partner of the 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund, explained why he found this fundraiser disappointing. “Non-Black founders have not demonstrated that they are capable of creating and delivering authentic DEI solutions. All we’ve seen has been a performative imitation or appropriation of genuine solutions of racial equity that have been developed by black people, ”he shared. “We need to invest in black founders who can actually solve the problems haunting the tech ecosystem all over the world.”
There is no shortage of talented black founders who are creating platforms to diversify representation and help companies create more fair hiring and employment practices. Here are some examples.
Jasmine whale is the founder and CEO of Black ownership and hiring, a career planning platform that connects black talent with employment opportunities at companies that value diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. “As a black woman navigating corporate America, I understand that not all people of color share the same experience when they apply and interview for positions. I also know that many companies want to increase their high end with diverse candidates without actually hiring them or putting in place measures to retain them, ”she explained. “Our goal is to help talented black applicants sift through strong DCI engagements that do not include internal change.” Whaley has yet to receive venture capital funding for his business. “I’ve been told that focusing on the black community is too specialized, or I’m compared to another black woman who grew up in this space, implying that only one black woman can raise money to solve problems. similar. And yet, I’ve seen many DCI platforms raise millions without diverse teams.
Jibril Sulaiman is the founder and CEO of Inclusion, an employment technology provider that programmatically amplifies remote roles from businesses to BIPOC professionals. As a long-time entrepreneur passionate about the economic empowerment of marginalized communities, he sees the hiring space for diversity as collaborative: “I have learned that integrating diversity efforts into talent acquisition is a very complex task that involves several approaches. I believe that as a diverse ecosystem of startups, we can all continue to grow to collectively tackle these issues. He too struggled to raise funds. “Other than a few small rounds of crowdfunding, it was quite difficult to raise investment funds for Incluzion. We have been regularly fired by investors because a company in their portfolio is also operating in the talent, recruiting or employment arena, without considering what we actually do in the context of diversity, remote working and technology. Sulaiman explained that this difficulty in fundraising does not prevent him from continuing to prime Incluzion towards profitability and growth.
Shannon Morales is the CEO and founder of Tribaja, a two-sided market and talent community for tech enthusiasts and under-represented startups. She is a proud Afro-Latina, first generation graduate, single mom and career changer. Based on her experience as a diversity consultant and recruiter, and having experienced her own biases in the workplace, she takes a community-centered approach to building Tribaja. “We understand the work that needs to be done to break through the emotional trauma associated with bad employers. It is for companies to create a culture of psychological safety, ”she explained. Morales says the fundraising conversations she’s had came to naught. “We hear the same things again: ‘How are you different?’ “Diversity is not sustainable”, “You are too early. Yet companies like ours have raised funds with less traction and no diversity within their leadership team. Our income and traction speaks for itself and investors need to be honest in saying that they only want to invest in founders who are like them.
Stella Ashaolu is the CEO and founder of WeSolv, a tech startup dedicated to revolutionizing the traditional model used to find and hire diverse candidates. As a US-born Nigerian woman with an MBA and management consulting experience, she has always struggled to recruit without the networks or traditional experiences of her peers. “I saw that when I was able to showcase my skills and talent through real projects or case competitions, companies and recruiters were eager to hire me. I was the same candidate on paper, but now they could see me beyond their biased goals, ”Ashaolu explained. “WeSolv was born out of the need for under-represented candidates to have access to these meaningful experiences.” Her fundraising journey has been equally difficult. “Despite my educational and professional background, carrying out world-renowned programs such as Techstars and creating a viable technology platform with paying clients, I was unable to raise a round of funding because investors still wanted “see a little more” – often more than my white male counterparts.
Carolyn Pitt is the CEO and founder of Productions.com, a talent marketplace that helps level the playing field for women and professionals of color who are under-represented in production industries. “My lived experience as an African American woman who has worked in fields heavily dominated by people who are unlike me informs my approach to building Productions.com,” she explained, adding that her fundraising journey fund was difficult because well. “Amazing founders whose businesses disrupt the market and who don’t fall under the traditional archetype have a much harder time starting a business, and when we’re in a position to do that, it tends to take a lot longer to build a business. close our rounds and we get more conservative funding amounts. These disparities have little or no impact on the viability of our businesses; instead, they are symptomatic of the systemic racism and sexism that has a deleterious effect on Women Founders and Founders of Color and the innovations they tirelessly work to bring to market.
Michele Heyward is the founder of PositiveHiring, a platform that connects black, Latin and indigenous women who are seasoned scientists, engineers and tech professionals with management roles. “As a black engineer, I’ve seen companies complain that they can’t find diverse talent, when their real problem is keeping that talent,” Michele explained. “The problem is not a pipeline problem, but the lack of accountability of management teams in creating workplaces that will retain and attract Black, Latin and Indigenous talent. She explained that investors often assume that PositiveHire is a nonprofit because it focuses on women of color. “They don’t see PositiveHire as a scalable investment-worthy solution.”
Arlan hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital seed fund that invests in under-represented founders, as well as a founder of the recruiting platform, Runner. She builds Runner with the community at heart, focusing on supporting the hiring of approved and inclusive startups, and giving “Runners” the ability to create the product and share ownership of the business. “As a gay black woman with lived experience in this space, I didn’t start Runner with the goal of recruiting for diversity; I started it to improve the job search process, recognizing that many recruiting platforms are not inclusive, ”explained Hamilton. She explained that it’s not just about finding candidates, but also connecting them with companies focused on inclusion and diversity. While Hamilton is starting Runner and has no plans to take on venture capital, she has between five and ten companies in the Backstage portfolio that focus on recruiting and retention. She explained that “all of these businesses, which are run by people of color and women, have not raised a combined total of $ 50 million.”
All of these founders are focused not only on building a diverse pool of candidates, but also on ensuring that the companies they work with create an inclusive and fair experience to retain and develop the careers of these employees. And they all have the common experience of not raising venture capital funds like their white male counterparts at Canvas did.
While the founders of Canvas have benefited from an inequitable funding ecosystem, they also have the capacity to change these inequalities. “If they weren’t looking for capital and their goal is to help diversity, why not use that $ 50 million to acquire a business that is not run by white men, or put them in a fund that invests in these companies? Hamilton shared. Sampson agreed, suggesting that “they should be their own client when considering their co-founders, the C-suite, and the team.”