On Friday, September 16, 2016, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet held a forum at the 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference entitled, “Unlocking Access to Capital: Founder and Investor Perspectives on the Venture Capital Landscape for Entrepreneurs of Color.”
The statistics are staggering. There is a visible lack of diversity with few blacks and latinos gaining access to capital in the tech space. African Americans make up only 2% of the aspiring entrepreneurs, comparative to the overwhelmingly large white and asian workforce and venture capitalist who control the access and money.
Sen. Booker and Administrator Contreras-Sweet discussed their work to expand access to capital for all entrepreneurs.
Sen. Booker says, “We have to understand that the challenges we face are going to take hard work, are not sexy, and may not make the newspaper.”
The black community has plenty of Talent, resources, and potential, but systemic barriers are careening the tech sector into a predominantly white space.
“Companies have an obligation and responsibility to confront disparities and racism, but they also have a self-interest in solving that problem,” says Sen. Booker.
Looking beyond the corporate responsibility lies an even heavier responsibility for our federal government to influence, if not force, change at the state level.
Passionate about the role government plays Sen. Booker says, “venture funds have major institutional partners, which they themselves need to have the consciousness of inclusion as well. All of the players involved need to have a greater conscious of the diversity of our country and what that diversity holds in making our nation stronger.”
Following the panel discussion, Sen. Cory Booker offered four simple pieces of advice to unlock your access to capital.
- Assess your own network. Know the resources that you have. Cast down your buckets where you are. A lot of people do not recognize the wealth or connections that they have, or how they’re two or three degrees separated from opportunities if they pursue them.
- Study capital. There’s a lot of different non-traditional ways to get access to capital and get people into the game. You may have a terrible credit score but there may be ways to repair your credit score today, or there may be ways to lift bad credit through crowd source funding that you can do.
- Do it. If you feel the calling to do it, then do it. The problem is often that the consequences are rough if you are privileged, but they are rougher sometimes devastating if you are not. Understand that most of the great business leaders had failures, so do not be afraid of that. If you feel called to do it, do it.
- Study people who have done it, especially the models out there that fit your circumstance. You will learn a lot from them. When I was first starting out, I would call people, and I was surprised at who would sit down with me for 30 minutes to talk me through their experiences.
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