Black Ideas Matter

I just gave the best pitch of my life and here is how it ended:

“It’s very interesting, it does seem that you guys are very early along in the process. I think that once you get more traction, I think you may have a little bit more uptake in the market and we can make a better assessment as to where we fit in. I would suggest you continue moving forward with your product and your company and keep us posted and let us know. It’s definitely an interesting concept and I can see the pain point that you are trying to solve, so I am looking forward to hearing from you”

The associate said after I spent the previous five minutes giving her the best pitch of my life. This type of rejection is common for most entrepreneurs. But this wasn’t the typical “I’m not interested” rejection for these two reasons:

  1. This firm started a side fund which aims to “HELP” women and minorities by investing in “female and underrepresented minority entrepreneurs.”
  2. This was an associate (a masters candidate at a university) who rejected my pitch and not a fund manager or someone in control of making the final decisions.

I realized that the associate’s response seemed formulaic and that this company’s true intention isn’t to “HELP” but rather to appear as if they are helping; a clever and effective PR stunt. Because although I worked diligently for the past year to get my product to market and acquire 1,000 organic users in two months after launch; it still wasn’t enough evidence for them to “HELP”. In fact, the associate said “This fund ONLY focuses on series B ready companies”, which in my mind means this: go find some other white investors, get them to validate your idea and company by investing their cash and helping you grow, then come back to us.

Dear “Diversity Fund”,

YOU AREN’T HELPING ANYONE! If you typically invest $500 million per year in companies then you start a separate diversity fund to invest $125 million in women and minority led companies over a five year span. In the next five years you will invest 5% ($125 million) of $2.5 billion in women and underrepresented minority led startups and invest the other 95% ($2.375 billion) in non women and non minority led companies. And you will only invest 5% in minority and women led companies that are ready for series B funding? Good job and thanks for your “HELP”!

Sincerely,

Underrepresented Minority

If these diversity funds were really trying help, they would realize the problem isn’t us minorities having access to series b funding, the problem is us having access to the visionary/version 1 stage funding that we desperately need to get our ideas validated and ready for growth.

Let’s use Instagram as an example:

(Reportedly)

Kevin Systrom learned to code at night after work

He built a prototype Called Bourbn

Gave it to his friends to use

Met Investors and showed them Bourbon

Received $500,000 in funding

Quit his job

Found a cofounder

Released Bourbn

Bourbn sucked

Pivoted and released Instagram

Instagram is AMAZING

Received series A

Myself on the other hand:

I paid a tutor to teach me how to code

Dropped out of graduate school at Dartmouth College

Built a prototype called Blastchat

Gave it to my friends to use

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Kept working on my product

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Kept working on my product

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Kept working on my product

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Kept working on my product

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Kept working on my product

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Launched the official first version

Tried fundraising: FAILED

Acquired 1,000 users

Contacted the Diversity Fund and met with an associate:

Told to come back when I’m ready for series B

CONTINUING TO WORK ON MY PRODUCT!

Do you see the problem? Kevin Systrom had his horrible idea validated by raising $500,000 which then helped him come up with his brilliant idea. On the contrary, my idea has yet to be validated by anyone brave enough to invest, not even by a fund that was created to “HELP” people like me. The problem isn’t our access to series B funding, the problem is our ideas are not being supported at the earlier stages. How can we get series B funding if we do not get seed funding? How can you say you want to help women and minorities if you are investing 5% of your investments in the next 5 years in minority and women led series B ready companies and 95% in non woman or non minority led companies?

You want to really help us? Support and help us validate some of our ideas, so we can one day be ready for series B funding.

Update: Intel invests in eighth grader, without any traction: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2917874/Boy-13-builds-Braille-printer-Legos-starts-company.html