Reducing Barriers and Building Networks for Black Founders to Thrive

Best Practices

Framework curated by Ameera Ladak and Stefan Palios in partnership with MindFrame Connect

Philip G. Joseph of Real Ventures and Rep Matters is working to increase Black founder representation in start-ups through meaningful opportunities for connection and understanding.

Black founders received only 1% of the approximately $215 billion that was allocated to start-ups in 2022, despite Black people representing 13.6% of the American population and 3.5% of the Canadian population.

Joseph is a VC investor and advocates for closing the racial gap in entrepreneurship. To him, the solution to bringing more Black founders into the tech world involves three prongs to reduce barriers: community, education, and inspiration.

How to reduce barriers for Black founders

Rep Matters, part of Real Ventures, is a platform that helps Black founders scale their businesses through three pillars.

Rep Matters developed an inspirational video series in which they interview Black founders about their experiences–the goal being to inspire new and would-be Black founders by showing them how other members of their community have navigated entrepreneurship.

Joseph spoke about the education the interview series can provide for Black founders. Rep Matters also offers webinars and in-person events to further educate Black founders, investors, and venture capitalists.

For Joseph, community building is the most important component for supporting Black founders. Rep Matters believes “in the power of physical spaces and bringing people together.” Joseph then spoke about the need for resiliency among Black founders and how community helps build resilience. While being resilient “starts with self,” according to Joseph, the “most important thing with resiliency is networks.”

How events create space for opportunity

Through in-person and digital events, Rep Matters creates opportunities for Black founders to access capital, which Joseph said “is the most difficult thing for all founders.” He spoke of four purposes these spaces can serve.

A space to not be alone
Joseph stressed the importance of ensuring Black founders know they are not isolated, despite being a visible minority in the tech world. Rep Matters creates a space for Black founders to share their experiences with others who understand their challenges as “Black people within the ecosystem.”

A space to thrive
For Joseph, it’s about creating a community where Black founders can thrive. “How we build these networks through thick or thin can benefit Black founders and give them the information and capital they need,” he said.

A space for personal growth
Joseph explained that he tries to cultivate a “growth-focused mentality” in founders since they have to be “ready to take on this battle which is entrepreneurship.” Without a solid foundation of resilience or a good mentality, said Joseph, it can be difficult for founders to lead their company or team.

A space for differences and similarities
Joseph was clear that “the Black experience isn’t a monolith,” and each founder experiences things differently based on their backgrounds or lived experiences.  However, “those experiences are unified by the fact that they are Black living in a predominantly white world.” That unifying point means some founders have similar experiences, and they can learn from each other despite their differences.

How investors can better support Black founders

Joseph outlined three tips for venture capitalists and investors to consider when assessing and funding Black founders.

Run a fair process
Black founders want to feel like the process they’re going through to obtain funding is fair so that they have a chance of getting funded. Joseph states we should take care to ensure “we’re judging each company in a similar way that’s systematic.”

Investors need to check their biases
In order to ensure they’re “making the best decisions that are fair and equitable,” Joseph says investors should be aware of their biases. He cautions investors not to rely on a gut check to assess founders, a common practice that can lead to implicit bias. Joseph advises that the majority of investors are not Black and are not necessarily aware of the internal biases they may have. He suggests these investors may not “account for those biases in their investment decisions.”

Black founders need the same things other founders need
Joseph said it’s crucial to remember a simple fact: Black founders face a barrier to access, but ultimately need the exact same support as any other founder: “networks, capital, and information.”

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