A year ago we made specific commitments to the Black community to drive change. Today we are reporting on what we’ve done over the past year. We made progress on our goals (see below) but more importantly expanded our world view, gained more empathy and built new relationships. We recognize this isn’t just a one year journey and we’re committed to continuing to do this work, being allies and helping fight racism, injustice and underrepresentation in our community.
After starting on the commitments, we quickly realized we had a lot more learning to do before we could accomplish our goals, and frankly, the majority of the year, we just spent learning and connecting with people. We grew our awareness of our privilege and the inequity our Black (and all BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women and other minority) peers face. We’re much more aware of how racism, injustice and underrepresentation show up in our world. If there was one takeaway from our first year doing this work, it’s this deeper sense of awareness and empathy.
We still have a lot of learning but here are a few of the things we did this past year.
We’re grateful for all the people who contributed to our learning, whether they knew it or not, and how many people who have been open, vulnerable and candid with us. While we can never fully understand or empathize with the Black (and other minority) experience, we now have a lot more experience, connection and awareness to the racism, injustice and underrepresentation in our society, not only in startups and investing.
In addition to learning, connecting and engaging, we worked on our commitments throughout the year.
Commitment: develop five more relationships with networks, organizations and groups who can help our understanding and increase the prevalence of Black founders in our investment pipeline before June 1st, 2021.
Result: we spent a lot of time building relationships in our communities to develop better access to BIPOC networks and found it harder than we anticipated. There are amazing BIPOC entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial networks in our geographies but we need to build trust and relationships over time. We’re very grateful for all the folks who we met with, helped us and that we’ve been working with. We’re specifically grateful to these organizations that we are now prioritizing:
We are looking to build more relationships so if you or someone you know is supporting BIPOC founders, we’d love to know about it and explore getting involved.
We continue to fund diverse founders, our most recent fund’s portfolio diversity stats are:
We’re proud to be putting money into companies with diverse leaders and will continue to seek out these investment opportunities as we believe they will overperform.
Commitment: add an advisor to our fund’s advisory board who is Black.
Result: we added Aaron Clark to our advisory board. Aaron has been a big help on our journey this year and he brings an amazing attitude and powerful perspective to our team. We’re thrilled to have him join us.
Commitment: help 30% of the companies in our current fund add Black members to their Board, Advisory Board or C-Suite so they look more like the communities they serve. This goal is 3x the proportion the Black community makes up in both our home communities (Colorado and Minnesota) which have populations that are about 10% Black. Additionally, we pledged to push more Black candidates into the many open roles in our portfolio.
Result: this ended up being a very hard goal for us to accomplish and we did not make material progress on it. We’re still getting to know the Black (and minority) talent pools and networks in our community and don’t yet have resources that are helpful to our portfolio. We had conversations with our companies to discuss their hiring plans and pushed for every key hire to have at least one diverse finalist. These conversations helped and there were a lot of great hires made but we can’t take credit for the sourcing of the candidates.
Spending time and focusing on this was an important and valuable part of our year. We’ve grown as people and expanding our network. Hopefully we’ve helped other people too. We will continue to connect with Black (and other minority) leaders in our communities, helping them gain access to our networks and resources, while engaging with their communities. We will continue helping our companies make key hires that increase the diversity of their company. We will continue to fund Black (and minority) founders. We will continue to learn and grow and give our privilege to those that need it.
We will continue to be allies in the fight against racism, injustice, and underrepresentation.
Natty Zola & Ryan Broshar