This was written by Walter Cruttenden, a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Blast and Acorns, as a response to the message I sent out in an email blast Wednesday that contained a call to action for VC’s to stop discriminating against minority founders, in the wake of the brutal killing of George Floyd, which was just the latest in a spate of the killing of unarmed black people, but the one that has seen the most repercussions lately.
Thoughtful message. But I think the problem deserves a two-front attack.
In the last 40 years, I have never seen a VC investor turn down a good deal because of skin color or gender. But I do think there is an issue earlier in the process – on the capital demand side.
Children of entrepreneurs or graduates from top schools have been taught how to access capital for their projects at an early age. I believe more attention is needed in teaching young people these skills, especially the disadvantaged. They need real financial literacy, like work-readiness and entrepreneurship skills.
These are the objectives of Junior Achievement, a wonderful educational non-profit now serving 5 million students in the U.S.
We are working to help them with a new app called Learn and Earn. It mentors K-12 students of every persuasion in essential topics not taught in school – things like how the financial markets work and how to access capital.
You made a great point. If we can come at this problem from both sides hopefully we can increase the number of ready entrepreneurs from all walks of life – and lift up our nation as a whole….
This is the message I sent out Wednesday:
We’re all in this together. Black and white. Young and old. Healthy and afflicted. We’re all in this together. This is not just a hashtag. Or a cliché.
If the past few months – with the coronavirus pandemic, and then more racial injustice and the ensuing protests – have taught us anything, it’s that in this melting pot of America, we’re all in this together.
And, yes, some of the peaceful protests turned violent. Just like some white police officers, tasked with protecting everyone, turn brutal and kill unarmed black men, while other white police officers aid and abet them.
OC and LA both experienced the shadow side of the protests – when they turned violent and looting and vandalism ensued. Granted, OC saw a lot less of that than LA.
And, in San Diego, peaceful protests against police brutality are continuing today, as they are in LA and other places around the country.
But whereas on the one hand, the coronavirus pandemic has catalyzed a slew of innovation in terms of pharma, medtech, isolation pods for patients, etc., where is the innovation around racial injustice and disparity that has plagued our nation for decades?
The spirit of innovation and VC’s practicing non-discrimination toward minorities is a huge step in that direction.
And, yes, just like we’re all in this together in terms of American democracy, or what’s left of it, we’re also all in this together in terms of the SoCal innovation ecosystem. A rising tide lifts all boats.
While LA and San Diego are much larger and more advanced innovation ecosystems, and sometimes want to call attention to themselves, and themselves alone, we’re all in this together.
One of the people in SoCal that I’ve seen in the past week issue yet another challenge to VC’s is Brian Mac Mahon, founder and leader of the Expert Dojo accelerator in Santa Monica, which luckily did not sustain any damage from the violence and looting.
He issued a challenge to VC’s to invest more in people of color (and more female founders). Here’s an excerpt from his email blast today….
“I started Expert DOJO because I got so tired of years of venture capital discrimination against great entrepreneurs based on their color, gender, background, school or just where they live. The big loser is America and our fading position as the world leader in entrepreneurship.
To fix this we all need to be transparent and open to change.
This is not just a question of fairness, it’s a question of common sense. America is a diverse and creatively brilliant country and that is what makes us great. By not taking advantage of this, we will continue to lose ground to other startup focused countries all over the world and in the end, our death as a nation will be inevitable.
The answer is not to have days when nobody works or petitions, or even to focus this on just one demographic. We need to act from our pockets and support the strength of minorities and female entrepreneurs so that this can spread throughout whole communities. Lets include all minority and gender groups who are negatively impacted by discriminatory investment all across America.
In Expert Dojo’s current cohort, here’s its own scorecard of how it invested its dollars:
Of 12 investments made in the last two months, nine are minority- led.
Of the same 12 investments, only four had female founders
Today we call on all other angels, accelerators, venture capitalists and influencers in our startup world to make your scorecards public and open your eyes to a new world of opportunity. This is your chance to invest in a way that will make your children proud.
If you’ve read this far, thank you!
OC Startups Now will continue its regular email blasts on Friday, with the SoCal Funding Roundup and other news from OC and greater SoCal.
OC Startups Now LLC