Yesterday, I tried to gather the team at my startup, Chef Koochooloo, to consolidate our research and prepare a presentation for NSF. I received the following text from our STEM advisor and teacher Dr. Susanna Mlynarczyk-Evans, who was about to go into labor:
“FYI, there’s a chance I may have to cancel last minute as I am showing signs that labor will start in the next few hours. If this happens I will try to inform you, but if you get here and find the door locked, you can assume I have headed to the hospital…..”
Her dedication, passion, and professionalism serves as a strong validation of the power and capabilities women possess.
Dr. Evans is a mother to 3 (now 4), a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford, and STEM director for Gabriella Mistral Elementary, to name just a few of her impressive achievements. Women like Dr. Evans serve as great examples of everything women can achieve. Yet right here in the heart of Silicon Valley, we find ourselves having to constantly defend our work ethic and commitment to our startups because we are women, or parents, or over the age of 30.
It is true, in the eyes of many Silicon Valley investors, we don’t fit the model of the ideal founder: a young male coder who works out of his parents’ garage, codes for 14+ hours per day, and is fresh out of college or, even better, a college dropout. There’s nothing wrong with fitting the Silicon Valley model — and obviously, no one chooses what race or gender they are, or in what year they were born. In fact, we have many young white male founders, like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Brian Chesky, to thank for countless innovations that have improved our lives and changed the world!
But isn’t it time to truly celebrate diversity, and cherish what women, people of color, and more experienced entrepreneurs can offer, as well? Chances are, the next great innovations will come from founders who do not fit the Silicon Valley model: founders from emerging regions of the world, female founders, and founders from different walks of life and in different stages of their lives.
I welcome you to experience FairFunders: a non-profit that is committed to building bridges between investors who are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in their industry, and entrepreneurs who don’t fit the model of the typical Silicon Valley founder. Inspired by the bravery of women who recently spoke out against discrimination and harassment, six female founders and I have come together to create a safe place for female and underrepresented founders to share knowledge about our personal experiences with investors, and to benefit from mentorship provided by investors who are committed to diversity and inclusion efforts.
In creating FairFunders, we hope to make the VC industry more transparent and make great investors more accessible to diverse founders. We believe this transparency will induce investors to make different decisions: once the numbers and personal experiences are in black and white for all to see, investors might decide to oust the predators among them, bring on more female and diverse partners, and fund more female- and POC-led companies. Our goal is to level the playing field so underrepresented entrepreneurs can more easily and safely obtain capital, and build a community around trust in the spirit of helping all founders have an equal chance at bringing their ideas to life.