One of the biggest embarrassments of Silicon Valley is its diversity problem, and one that it shares with virtually every startup hub across the country. It’s an intimidating problem for any minority founder, especially Latin, Black and female founders. But it doesn’t have to be: the startup community is aware of this shortcoming, and there are resources to help minority startup founders get on their feet faster, if you know where to look.
If you’re looking to start your business in 2017, or if you’ve been struggling to get on your feet, and you’re part of a minority, take a look at these five resources. Some of them may just end up being your (very well deserved) ticket to the big time.
If you’re a Black entrepreneur, make sure to get in touch with the nonprofit Black Founders. This organization was started in 2011 and serves to empower Black founders by offering advice, mentorship, and funding when possible.
Their mission is to change the funding ratio that plagues the startup community today: 9 percent of new entrepreneurial activity is conducted by those who identify as Black, only 1 percent of VC-backed tech startups have Black founders.
Grants and Loans
While seeking investment is a common choice, if you’re looking to bootstrap most of your journey, but need a little boost, look into grants and loans that you qualify for. Just as with college scholarships, there are a surprising number of grants that only go to very specific people, so make sure you look for any opportunities specific to your race, gender, age and location.
Every opportunity from the often tapped Small Business Administration to the less well-known First Nations Development Institute Grant falls into this category — and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of possibilities for quickly getting an influx of capital when you need it.
Most entrepreneurs, especially in the tech space, are familiar with Techstars, the global ecosystem that incubates so many startups around the world. However, you may not have heard of Techstars Foundation, their nonprofit division that is dedicated to increasing the representation of minority founders, which they do “by investing in organizations with grant money and leveraging the Techstars network to empower these organizations to accelerate their mission forward.”
This nonprofit takes its name from the year that it’s predicted that caucasian people will no longer make up the majority of the U.S. population. CODE2040 provides education, professional pathways and introductions to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. One of their most standout programs is CODE2040 Residency, which places entrepreneurs in startup communities across the country that will assist them with funding and business development.
Women In Tech Summit
If you’re female and looking to found or get involved in a tech startup, I strongly suggest the Women in Tech Summit, which takes place four times over the course of the year in major cities on either side of the country. It’s a great opportunity to network, hear compelling speakers who have encountered the same challenges you have to face every day, and get introduced to companies and potential mentors.
The road for minority entrepreneurs is a tough one, but know that the startup community is aware of your struggles and there are many who are working to alleviate them. It will likely still be tough to appeal to big venture capitalists and incubators for years to come, but there are many tools and organizations available to help your business thrive without them, and in spite of them. Don’t give up on your dream of running your own business because of the current social situation — I urge you to push even harder, so that the next generation can skip the same struggles.