Written by Chante Harris, Vice President, Capalino+Company, and Lynn Loacker, Founder of Project W.
On Monday, November 18, Davis Wright Tremaine’s Project W Initiative and Capalino+Company hosted an exclusive roundtable discussion to explore cross-sector solutions to the funding gap for women of color founders in technology and other growing industries in New York City.
Bringing together more than 25 female founders in industries ranging from artificial intelligence to sustainable consumer products, participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves to one another, while hearing from funders, partners and supporting institutions within the female entrepreneurship space.
In addition, founders contributed to a moderated discussion with government leaders from major City agencies and their partners, including the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab, an in-house accelerator focused on companies founded by multicultural and female entrepreneurs. The roundtable continued with a larger group discussion on key challenges for female women of color founders, what currently is or isn’t working, and how funders approach these issues. The event ended with a brainstorming session to develop solutions to these challenges and a call to action to materialize what next steps need to be taken to solve them.
A Snapshot of Challenges for Women of Color
As attention increases towards the gap in funding opportunities for women overall, alarming disparities in VC funding for women remain. More specifically, although women of color are gaining increased media attention, major gaps remain in the allocation of investments despite a peak in the number of diverse female entrepreneurs.
According to a report commissioned by American Express, women started an average of 1,821 new businesses per day in the U.S. between 2017 and 2018 alone. However, despite the growing number of female founded businesses, they are only getting a small fraction of the funding. According to an Entrepreneur article, since 2009, black female founders received a minuscule .0006 percent out of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture capital funding. Additionally, of all VC funding over the past decade, Latinx women-led startups have raised only 0.32% according to Project Diane’s demographic study. These statistics highlight the uphill battle women of color are on to overcome funding models and financial systems that have disproportionately excluded them.
This being said, we know that venture capital is not the only, or even the best way, for all founders to scale and sustain a sustainable business given the nature of VC funding, a topic of discussion explored repeatedly during our roundtable discussion. For instance, the Small Business Administration has increasingly become one of the top sources of funding for women-owned businesses. We have seen the government step up to the plate with initiatives like WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs NYC) spearheaded by the New York City Department of Small Business Services and women.nyc committed to investing in women and minority founded tech start-up companies through New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Moving Discourse to Action
A number of topics were discussed, with key takeaways including the need for creating access to larger social networks, increasing awareness around existing opportunities aside from capital, collecting data that government and companies can use to implement programs and resources that address the needs of diverse founders, and addressing biases in the decision making processes. Using these insights, Capalino+Company and Project W are looking forward to continuing to play a role in advancing the larger goal of implementing tangible solutions.
Opportunities and resources supporting female women of color include:
- Buildercapitalist.org, a new trade organization launched this month, advocates for investors who want to make closely-held bets on entrepreneurs via private holding companies, revenue-sharing arrangements, and equity and debt financial structures that could be more supportive of founders trying to build long-term wealth. Builder capitalists are hands-on and truly in partnership with founders in helping them build and grow their businesses together.
- There are a number of funds investing in diverse female founders and underrepresented founders including New Voices Fund, Harlem Capital, BBG Ventures and others as well as angel groups including Maya Venture Partners and Pipeline Angels.
- Project W’s events and programs provide the tools, resources and connections necessary for female founders to raise the capital they need to build great companies.
- Republic Academy, a 3-day event to support founders through content and partnership with Republic’s vast network. Additionally, if you are ready to grow your business and raise capital, Republic Cities, a program that selects high growth, up-and-coming cities working hard to level the playing field for entrepreneurs, is currently accepting applications.
- Additionally, there are a number of communities that aim to support the expansion of women’s social networks including Barclays and Anthemis’ Female Innovators Lab and Black Women Talk Tech.
Are you interested in exploring how you and your company can be part of addressing the funding gap for women of color? Stay connected with Capalino+Company and Project W as we prepare to launch a quarterly series centered around exploring scalable cross-sector solutions and partnerships to create long-term sustainable change for female founders.
Are you a founder looking to expand your venture or enter the New York City market? Reach out to the Chante Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.915.9189 to discuss opportunities and strategies to grow your business.
About Lynn Loacker
Lynn Loacker is the Partner-in-charge of DWT’s New York office, the Chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and the founder of Project W. Lynn works with companies, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, to help them meet their growth objectives, overcome obstacles and build successful businesses. An advocate for the advancement of women throughout her career, she has been focusing over the past few years on closing the gender gap in the corporate world, including in funding for women-led businesses and in the election of women to corporate Boards of Directors.
About Chante Harris
Chante Harris is Vice President of Capalino+Company, where she leads startups and established businesses through the complex processes of securing procurement opportunities, launching pilot projects, undertaking design challenges, and launching community impact programming. A champion of growing innovative companies in New York, Chante is at the helm of driving long-term, sustainable growth for companies through go-to-market and growth strategy. Chante is a fierce advocate for women and people of color’s representation and advancement across underrepresented industries.
About Project W
Project W’s mission is to help female founders build great companies and to help women take their place in the C-suite and the boardroom. Since inception, Project W has grown to a community of over 1,500 female founders and business executives, supported by allies in the investment community, in C-Suites and among the many like-minded organizations with which Project W partners. To learn more visit www.dwt.com/about/project-w.
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