Thanks for this challenging and thoughtful call to action, Jean! I agree-to build an economy that works, we need to bring entrepreneurs who we’ve typically overlooked into the game.
I’ve learned through our partnerships with the Case Foundation and many others that the best way to change WHO we invest in is to change HOW we invest. I’ve noticed a few things over the years:
First, the way we make venture capital investments is often filled with unconscious bias. As you note, people who don’t live in the same places or look like the decision-makers don’t have as good of a shot to succeed. The average investor looks at over 1,000 ideas a year and often uses intellectual short cuts that short-circuit entrepreneurship. One way this stands out is an over reliance traditional application processes, where resumes and references tend to favor people like the decision makers. A second way is an over reliance on pitch fests or “Demo Days”, which tend to favor people who pitch well (who overwhelmingly tend to be men) to allocate funding. I’m seeing some great experimentation with alternative ways to evaluate entrepreneurs beyond just resumes and pitch decks-to me, this is one area where investors can be fearless.
The second is empowering new decision-makers. I know dozens of promising fund managers who are women and people of color who would be a great investment. We also use a peer due diligence method to make many investments, which empowers entrepreneurs themselves to allocate capital.
We often think of “innovation” as what we invest in. Thanks for challenging us to think of innovation as how we invest!