I was just recently part of an open forum about being Black in America, along with in the start-up space.
A white creator asked, “What can I do as the creator of a really early-stage startup?” The group provided various suggestions that consisted of the obvious (or a minimum of I would hope it’s obvious), “When you are growing your team, consider employing Black employee,” or “When you are thinking about an investment from a financier, press them about the variety of their existing portfolio founders.”
One tip truly stood out, which was to make a concerted effort to find somebody various from your existing group’s makeup when bringing in subject matter experts. This deliberate act reveals your uniform staff member that Black people, other racial minorities or genders can be professionals too. It can likewise be used when growing your team by ensuring you interview diverse candidates whose level of know-how is frequently second-guessed.
This got me thinking of VC Monique Woodard’s declaration that “Black founders are underinvested and frequently overmentored.” In June, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and open discussion about anti-Blackness, we saw a multitude of financiers hurrying to offer mentorship to Black founders. A few of the financiers do not have Black creators amongst their portfolio companies so to some observers, this rush to help Black creators was viewed as insincere and a marketing tactic.
As a former creator, I can confidently say that a lot of Black founders simply desire a fair shot at providing their start-ups to investors. The prevailing system of needing a warm intro to gain access to financiers puts founders, specifically Black founders, who don’t have the exact same networks as financiers at a disadvantage. The appropriate mea culpa by these financiers should be to make pitching more accessible for all creators. Offers of mentorship are definitely welcome, the constant barriers Black founders tell me they struggle with are access to capital and networks, not a lack of talent or service savvy.
The quick emphasis on mentorship made me ask myself: How are the contributions of Black individuals (founders, financiers, operators, etc.) to the startup space seen? Are we showcased as experts or as continuous trainees in requirement of mentoring and recommending? To directionally address this question, I relied on podcasts. According to a New York Times short article, “more than half individuals in the United States have listened to one (podcast), and almost one out of three people listen to at least one podcast on a monthly basis.” This figure shows that podcasts are a wide-reaching medium that audiences use as a source of both entertainment and info.
I dug into the 2018 and 2019 visitor lists of three of my preferred startup-related podcasts: “This Week In Startups,” “How I Constructed This With Guy Raz” and “The Twenty Minute VC.” These are all top-ranked podcasts with tens of millions in downloads and over half a million subscribers.
|Podcast||Description||Typical Visitor Profile|
|This Week In Startups||Entrepreneur and angel financier Jason Calacanis brings you his take on the very best, worst and most intriguing stories from the world of start-ups. Peek into the boardroom throughout deep-dive interviews with the most ingenious founders and financiers. Get the specialists’ hottest handles trending subjects during our news roundtables.||
|How I Developed This with Man Raz||Person Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative about idealists, business owners and innovators– and the motions they developed.||
|The Twenty Minute VC||The Twenty Minute VC takes you inside the world of equity capital, start-up financing and the pitch. Discover how you can attain funding for your service by listening to what the most prominent financiers are straight searching for in start-ups, providing easily actionable pointers and tricks that can be put in location to increase your chances of getting funded.||
I evaluated more than 500 episodes that were aired in 2018 and 2019 throughout all 3 podcasts to get a racial and gender breakdown of guests that were included on those episodes.