I really appreciate the way you lay out this argument, Jean, because it helps illustrate an essential point about diversifying the venture capital ecosystem. Any industry that is this dominated by one race, place or gender is going to be susceptible to sameness. And we all know that sameness is the enemy of innovation.
Overlooking entire segments of society doesn’t just hurt women entrepreneurs or minority entrepreneurs or Midwestern entrepreneurs. It hurts the entire venture capital economy because it’s leaving so much potential innovation on the table.
And on the flip-side, initiatives that help lead to a more diverse mix of people and perspectives don’t just help those groups — they make the entire venture space more competitive and more innovative.
But, as you also pointed out, human beings are heavily susceptible to unconscious bias. We’re almost hard-wired to seek out those that look, act and think like us. Thus, the only way to start making real change at the speed we need is for existing leaders to begin acknowledging their biases and stepping outside of their comfort zones.
Obviously, that isn’t an easy thing to do. That’s why I’m proud to be part of JumpStart, an organization that is doing this kind of work. Our female/minority-dedicated Focus Fund, which your Case Foundation has generously supported, may only be a drop in the overall bucket of nationwide venture capital investment — but like your #FacesofFounders initiative, it sends a powerful and deliberate message. Not only is it possible for female and minority entrepreneurs to find funding in places like Ohio — funders are actively seeking them out.
That sort of two-way momentum is the key to achieving meaningful results in this work.