I had the opportunity to participate on a Congressional Briefing Panel regarding the challenges of funding for women and minority tech startups. Entitled “New Models For Tech Start-Up Funding & Economic Impact”, the Briefing brought together a group of stake-holders to examine and analyze current disparities within tech start-up funding, contributing psycho-social/cultural factors, forecast, possible public-private support systems, and overall U.S. economic impact. It was a great panel that included representatives from government, technology companies, academia, investors and accelerators.
The event was kicked off by Congressman Charlie Rangel who led a very impassioned speech about the importance of creativity, innovation, infrastructure and education in order to help create the workforce of the future. The panel then dove into the difficult statistics that have been previously disclosed with a discussion around the core reasons for the major disparities in entrepreneurial funding opportunities for minority and female entrepreneurs. The panel coalesced around a few key reasons, including:
- Lack of awareness that a problem exists
- Cultural and unconscious biases
- Lack of purposefulness in considering possible solutions
The panel discussion was very formative and provided some ideas for ways forward. These included:
- Using storytelling as a means of educating stakeholders
- Using data as a way to challenge limited partners of ventures funds to help drive more diverse portfolios
- Encouraging the development of self-reliant ecosystems that provide better support capabilities for female and minority entrepreneurs
- Combining perspectives from multiple stakeholders and working to find synergies through non-siloed initiatives
This is a challenging topic but one that has received significantly more attention. Hopefully this is one of a number of ongoing discussions that will lead to more action and improved results!