The funding gap for under-represented founders both here in Australia and across the world is well documented — the vast majority of funding flows to straight, white, locally-born, men.
In August, Rampersand announced a new initiative that aims to understand and help address the funding gap.
We received amazing feedback and support from a large number of incredible people across the startup ecosystem. The level of insight and advice has been staggering, in a good way, and we are hugely grateful. In particular, we acknowledge the support of LaunchVic which has generously awarded us a grant to help fund our program.
Through our engagement with diversity and inclusion experts, mentors, advisors, investors and under-represented founders we have learnt a lot. We know the learning won’t stop here. This is a highly complex problem that the more we engage on the topic, the more we uncover and learn.
Through our engagement, we have greater clarity on four principles that will guide our program:
1: It starts with us. As a VC, we need to better understand how our processes, people and practices are putting up barriers for under-represented founders.
We have just completed a three month review by VC inclusion specialists, Change Catalyst, and have a number of recommendations to implement (we will write about them in a different post).
2: Listen and learn. Undoubtedly some of the funding gap is caused by an inability to recognise brilliance in founders from diverse backgrounds, specifically because there is relatively little time spent with those founders to understand them.
Our first step is to open our eyes and ears — spend time with under-represented founders, understand their journeys and challenges, and how the traits of brilliance and ambition comes across differently.
3: Share and be open. There is so much mystery and misinformation about the fundraising process. Founders either aren’t aware of the funding opportunities, don’t believe it’s relevant to them, or simply don’t know how to participate.
Being more open and clear about processes, requirements and expectations may help many founders access funding they otherwise wouldn’t have.
4: Get help. While we work on continuing to build the diversity of our own team, as a small company it is unlikely we will have representation of all the myriad under-represented people in the community. What we are committed to, is the principle of openness and accessibility for all founders, and the requirement to continue to be guided by people with different experiences and backgrounds to our own.
We are grateful to the dozens of people who have already spent time with us and offered their insights and advice. Each one adds to our knowledge and has an impact. In particular, we are enormously appreciative of the four individuals who have agreed to join our Inclusion Advisory Board and will be working closely with us over the next 18 months.
We delighted to announce that these four Advisory Board members are:
Shahirah Gardner: Co-founder of Finch
Shahirah is cofounder of Finch, a next-gen data intelligence and financial technology company. She is one of Australia’s leading names in fintech and women in tech, recognised as Australia’s “Rising fintech Star” in 2018 after Finch received numerous awards across multiple categories: including “Best Personal Finance app” and “Best Digital Wallet”. Shahirah is a guest writer for Yahoo-Finance, and has presented at several conferences including Money 20/20, Women In Payments & Australian Banking Summit. She’s also a board member of Girls in Tech Australia.
Aiman Hamdouna: Co-founder of Hatch Quarter
Aiman is on a mission to educate, support, and empower the people solving the world’s problems through business technology and innovation. He is the co-founder of Hatch Quarter, a successful startup incubator for migrant and international entrepreneurs.
He dedicates his time to the growth of the Victorian startup ecosystem and has founded the first collaborative community for International Entrepreneurs in Melbourne to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs from around the world and the local startup ecosystem, and connect Australia with the world.
Jirra Harvey: Founder of Kalinya Communications
Jirra is the Director of Kalinya Communications and Manager of Aboriginal Entrepreneurship and Innovation at RMIT University. Kalinya is a Yorta Yorta word, meaning good, beautiful and honest. These are her guiding business principles. At RMIT she created the Ngamai program, working with Aboriginal entrepreneurs to grow uniquely Australian businesses that consider people, community and environmental sustainability. Jirra was a National Scholar at the University of Melbourne, the inaugural Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Fellow at the National Gallery of Australia, and a Postgraduate Scholar at RMIT. She sits on the board of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Rachael Neumann: Head of Startups Australia/NZ at Amazon Web Services
Rachael has many roles in the Melbourne startup ecosystem, including as a mentor, a Board Director and a strategic advisor to a number of founders and their early stage companies. She was the Managing Director of Eventbrite Australia, launching the Melbourne-based office, and served as Eventbrite’s Director of Customer Experience Strategy. Prior to this, Rachael was at Bain & Company in Silicon Valley and throughout Australia, advising Technology, Private Equity, Consumer Products and Retail businesses.
Rachael was educated in the United States and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and two Masters degrees from Columbia University, and now lives in Melbourne.
As members of the Rampersand Inclusion Advisory Board, Shahirah, Aiman, Jirra and Rachael will help continuing to guide our efforts to address the funding gap for under-represented founders, pull us up where we make mis-steps, and suggest new ways to reach and invest in businesses founded by under-represented founders.
To the many others who came forward with offers to help, we appreciate it and will continue to stay in touch as we join a community of people passionate about making Australia the greatest place to start a business, no matter who you are.