It is a painful week for our community as we once again face the realities of systemic racism and anti-Blackness in our society. From the murder of George Floyd in our backyard to the protests in our home states and around the country, it’s a time for reflection and change. The injustice that has again been exposed has made us sad and angry. Enough is enough.
We are writing to publicly affirm our values and our commitment to building an inclusive entrepreneurial community, with access for all. We are committed to broadening and demystifying the closed networks that usually accompany venture capital. Our doors are open, and to the Black community – we stand by you.
Yet, we can do more. We resonate with the framing that to “wire and hire” is how to make a difference. We’ve worked with Black founders and advisors in our network to put together clear actions we will take.
We invest in Black founders. Seven percent of the companies we’ve invested in have Black founders or founding team members, seven times the appalling industry average. We invested in Black founders like Clarence (Upsie) and David (Curu) because they are amazing leaders who are building meaningful companies. To borrow a term from Clarence, “Black founders are dope.” This is the path we’ve been on, plan to continue with and yet it is not enough. We will do better.
We’ve heard stories of Black founders being uncomfortable approaching us because they thought we wouldn't take them seriously or have a chance at an investment. Our biases and ignorance of the Black experience has contributed to this situation. This is heartbreaking for us. Therefore, we commit to:
- 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.
We hope our past actions and these future steps show the Black community we can be trusted, we are serious about their companies and we are allies.
Unequal access to employment and leadership opportunities is a systemic issue for the Black community. Today we can commit to doing the following actions before June 1st, 2021 to help address this:
- add an advisor to our fund’s advisory board who is Black. This group is our most important advisors who help review and shape our fund strategy. We are a small fund and don’t have plans to hire directly into Matchstick anytime soon but if or when we do, we will be very intentional about building a diverse pipeline of candidates.
- 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.
- push more Black candidates into the many open roles in our portfolio (see our job board). If you’re Black and interested in any of these roles, please reach out to us directly and we will personally fast track a connection with the company.
While it is a long road towards true equity and we do not have all of the answers, today we hope these commitments are a start. We thought about listening and waiting longer before putting ourselves out there with a specific intention and plan but we’d rather be leaders for positive change, even if it means we end up getting some of this wrong. We will keep listening and learning as better ways to make change reveal themselves, which will offer an opportunity to expand our efforts.
We will need help accomplishing these goals. If you have interest, ideas and/or a network to help us, please contact us. We hope other Venture Capitalists and investors, especially in our markets, follow our lead and challenge them to step up and set commitments that drive change.
We are allies in the fight against racism, injustice, and underrepresentation.
Natty Zola & Ryan Broshar
Questions you may be asking:
- What about all the underrepresented groups? All the underrepresented groups deserve this same level of attention and change. We hear you, see you and aspire to be your allies too. Today we are focused on the Black community but we won’t stop there. As an example, we’ve been supporters and advocates for the Candor Clause, to promote gender equity and was created by Liz Giorgi and Hayley Anderson (from soona) who we’ve been lucky to back. There is more we can do.
- Why aren’t we donating money? We have donated money but that's an easy thing to do and we want to do more. We also aren’t rich, we are early in our careers and run a smaller fund so our actions can have a bigger impact than our capital.
- How many Black women have you funded? None. We need to address this. We have not looked hard enough and we hope these steps are a start.
- What is the exact number of investments you’ve made in Black founders? 4 out of 55 companies from Matchstick Ventures Fund I and Fund II. 6 out of 92 companies through the Techstars accelerators we’ve run. Since we have standard investment sizes, all founders received roughly the same amount of capital as their peers in the portfolio who are not Black. Our latest investment from Matchstick Ventures was to a Black CEO and was one of our largest checks we’ve ever written.
- Who helped us come up with this plan? We worked with the Black founders in our portfolio, Black leaders in our community, Black friends and our mentors.
- Why aren’t we committing to fund a certain number of Black founders? We believe talent can come from anywhere and so we didn’t want to put a number on how many Black founders we could or should invest in. We will hold Black founders to the same bar we hold all founders. By focusing our efforts on targeting more Black founders into our pipeline and better understanding our conscious and unconscious bias, we expect the number of investments to go up.
- Will you share your learnings and progress? Yes. We will report out on this at least quarterly.
- Is this the best you can do? No. But it’s a start. We expect to learn more over the coming weeks/years and evolve how we can help all underrepresented communities get the resources and access they deserve. We wanted to take a stand quickly and definitively to show it can and should be done. This is our start.