Tech Ecosystem Building: Bringing EDI Opportunities to Black and Brown Entrepreneurs


Welcome to our series on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) opportunities, where we will highlight equity vs. equality and what we believe that means for the future of tech, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. We’ll be talking about how to bring equity to entrepreneurs of color, the impact of mentorship, and more. Read on and share your thoughts. 

One of GFTC’s core tenants is our commitment to building a diverse and equitable tech ecosystem. Developing inclusive technology communities helps grow and leverage talent and create a strong diversity pipeline in the STEM leadership community. It equitably positions Black and Brown entrepreneurs to have agency and to take up space, a space in which they also deserve to exist.

As TechCrunch reporter Megan Rose Dickey wrote in a recent article, “Diversity, inclusion, and equity do not just mean hiring and recruiting Black and Brown folks. It touches on all aspects of the tech industry, including venture capital and the gig economy, where many of its workers are Black, Indigenous or people of color.” Rose Dickey further defines equity as “treating people in fair and just ways that take into account systemic discrimination and other structural barriers.” The need for greater equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) must also mean fostering work environments that genuinely support these efforts. This means recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing systemic barriers from the ground-up like education, technology access, and leadership opportunity gaps that have long existed, but the COVID-19 pandemic further amplified with job loss and income inequality, combined with overall economic uncertainty.

Black and Brown businesses already receive smaller amounts of capital funding. According to diversity research powerhouse Digital Undivided, Black women have only received .06% of all venture funding since 2009, with Latinx women making up less than 2% of women-led startups. Black and Brown small businesses also felt some of the most significant impacts at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where the Paycheck Protection Program came in – the federal government created the program to help small businesses stay afloat, with calls put out for small business owners to apply. After the second quarter of 2020 upended many growth and profit strategies, this became a beacon of hope for many small business owners.

We now know the first round of PPP loans did not reach many businesses most in need. As the application and approval reporting from the first round of PPP loans show, it became clear that there were significant gaps in funding. According to recent data, just 12 percent of Black and Latinx business owners who applied for PPP loans reported receiving what they asked for; nearly half of these individuals expressed fears about being forced to close permanently.

Ensuring small business success is crucial to economic recovery. Ensuring equity is strategically factored into the recovery process is critical. The recent announcement that the Biden-Harris administration plans to expand the PPP Loan program while loosening eligibility requirements is a great start and a major first step.

But what’s next? When businesses are back on their feet, what can we do to ensure small business and entrepreneur success while keeping the opportunity pipeline healthy? One way is by providing Black and Brown small businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need as they develop unique and responsive strategies to further grow and scale their businesses.

Through our work, GFTC is proud to lend its expertise as part of the growing number of individuals and organizations banding together with focus and determination in defining and developing solutions that positively impact entrepreneurs of color. We are actively engaged in this solutions-development process through the Entrepreneur Development Network DC (EDNDC) pilot program. EDNDC, a joint venture between The George Washington University and Howard University, seeks to provide a diverse group of DC-based entrepreneurs with pre-accelerator business model development.

With direct support from DC community organizations and Wells Fargo, we are leveraging the dynamic DC mentor network to help these entrepreneurs get back to doing what they do best, building the nation’s capital through entrepreneurship! These efforts are critical in not only reviving DC but communities across the country. We look forward to sharing more insights as we prepare to welcome 15 select entrepreneurs for the EDNDC Lean Bootcamp taking place in March.

Developing programming and resources, infusing capital into small businesses via grants and direct funding opportunities, and engaging in discussions about talent development and entrepreneurial venture support are all actionable ways we can ensure recovery becomes growth. We’re excited for the renewed chances many small businesses will soon have at accessing much-needed support. Looking ahead, we are energized to be part of the critical conversations on how to best position Black and Brown small businesses and entrepreneurs for economic recovery as we continue to prioritize building a strong, equitable, and diverse entrepreneur ecosystem.

Tell us what you think. What are the other ways policymakers, investors, and other industry decision-makers and stakeholders can help Black and Brown entrepreneurs? 

 Title image: Joshua Briere 

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