Women in Tech Speak Out: How VCs Can Help Black Women Founders

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BAME and Black Lives Matter has consistently been in the news this year, with the conversation still relevant, Lisa Love, the Co-Founder and CMO of Tanoshi, adds her voice.

Lisa began her career over 20 years ago working for Fortune 500 CPG companies, including Heinz and Del Monte in brand and product marketing. She managed a portfolio of brands that generated revenue of up to $75m. Lisa also spent 11 years working for the #1 online retailer of wine where she wore many hats and worked in various departments throughout her tenure including operations, merchandising, and partnerships. She also spent time as a marketing consultant and helped numerous businesses and non-profit organizations accomplish their marketing goals. Lisa is passionate about giving all kids a fair chance to succeed. Her role at Tanoshi is to provide an equitable digital education for all kids around the world, no matter their socio-economic background. She oversees the planning, development, and execution of the marketing strategy for Tanoshi.

Lisa Love

Diversity. Inclusion. Equality. We’ve been hearing these words over and over again – in the news, online, and within day to day conversations with our peers. Since the brutal, racially motivated murder of George Floyd, companies are asking; “How can they hire more Black employees.” And as a follow-up, “How to create a culturally aware company that promotes positivity and acceptance.” We are in a climate where racial tensions are soaring, and the entire world is anxious for change. Imminent change. Real change.

For years, major tech companies have expressed commitments to increasing their Black employee ratio – almost insisting that the numbers will improve. Reality has a different narrative. The number of Black employees in some of the biggest tech companies is disturbing. Not only are the numbers very low or non-existent, there’s been little if any, improvement within a five-year time span. From 2014 to 2019, the
number of Black tech workers at both Facebook and Google increased from 1% to 2%. Microsoft rose from 2% to 3%. Apple’s Black tech workers remained at 6%. And, many of these employees are not at the top echelons of corporate leadership.

One might think it can’t get any worse – but it does. Let’s take a look at Black women entrepreneurs who are the fastest-growing segment to start businesses, but least likely to receive the capital necessary to run their business. Brace yourself – less than 1% of Black women receive funding from venture capitalists. However, on the flip side, the fact that there are so few Black women founders being funded, this presents a huge
opportunity for VCs to invest in diverse companies.

There are many speculations as to why Black women have a challenging time raising funds. Most of the investors at VC firms are white men and make the decision regarding who receives investment dollars. Some say it’s the result of not being part of the good ole boy’s network – a tight-knit, exclusive group where if you are amongst the right pedigree, then you’re in. But if you’re not, good luck.

In addition, there are other VCs who say they support Black women founders, but never write any checks – even when it comes to fast-growing startups such as Tanoshi. If these VCs are truly allies, then there are numerous Black women who would love to work with them.

Although Black women entrepreneurs are motivated to start their own multi-million or billion-dollar companies, a majority of them are not receiving the investments needed to do so. Therefore, their businesses fold before they can even get it off the ground. The disadvantage for all of us becomes less economic growth and innovation. Statistics tell us – when women and people of colour start businesses, they make more money and bring great innovation to market.

What can VCs do to assist Black women founders?

The only way to bring Black women into the VC community more successfully is by taking action. First, the VC community needs to educate themselves on Black culture, community and race. Know our history. It’s amazing what they might discover, and what we actually may have in common. Once experiences are shared and voices are heard, everything else will start to click.

Second, the VC community needs to make soft introductions to those within their network. If a Black woman pitches to a VC and it’s not the right fit for the firm, then that’s understandable. However, in the startup world, everyone knows the importance of soft introductions as opposed to cold calling a potential investor. VC’s can help by making those introductions to investors within their circle who they think might be a
better fit.

The final step falls on the Black community. Sometimes, investing in Black female funders needs to come from the Black community itself. That’s right – Black VCs need to invest in Black entrepreneurs. However, this becomes a bit more difficult since 81% of VC firms do not have Black investors. That means, exposing, educating, and training Black men and women about the VC world so that there’s a pipeline of Black investors, needs to be a focus.

As we move forward into a year where unprecedented times seem to be the norm, there’s one thing we know for sure –equality, diversity, and inclusion touch all of us in some way. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, Black, Latino, or any other race, we are all impacted by the inequities that exist within our systems. Maybe one day, once action truly happens, these inequities will be forever eradicated and we can all live together in harmony.

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

https://thefintechtimes.com/women-in-tech-speak-out-how-vcs-can-help-black-women-founders/