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New Majority

Luminary Shines a Light on Women in the Workplace

Want to be a luminary in your field? Who doesn’t? The key might be self-funding. Cate Luzio spent 23 years toiling in corporate America. She made a name for herself at major institutions including Bank of America, JP Morgan, and HSBC. And she knew how hard it would be to get a small business loan. So she decided to fund her unique business collaboration space for women by herself. "We like to say, 'We're not just a pretty space," she says of the first Luminary, in the heart of NYC. “I took a step out of this successful banking career to make a bigger impact,” she says. “As soon as you split that with investors, you begin to lose that. I want my investors to be my members.” What is Luminary? She quit her last bank job in February of this year to devote herself full-time to Luminary. So what is it? “We’re a little bit of everything,” Luzio says in the understatement of the year. Luminary is a communal workspace, but it also houses a beauty bar and a fitness studio. Its tightly packed selection of programming ranges from speaker series, to networking events, to a support group for founders. Inclusivity at Luminary Luzio wants to make it clear that all services are available to anyone who identifies as a woman. Luminary is not an exclusive club. There is no application process. Anyone who wants to join can take part as long as they can afford the monthly fee. But Luzio is especially pumped to work with her corporate clients. She says that she foresees that the change necessary to empower women in the workplace will happen more quickly by working through large companies. And they’re already signing on. Current corporate members include Luzio’s former employer JP Morgan, as well as Goldman Sachs, Citizens Bank, and Inspiring Capital. That means those companies are supporting the women on their staff by offering them the services at Luminary, from career-building advice to free wine on tap. Self-Funding Of self-funding the business, Luzio reflects, “It was a big risk, but taking investor dollars is a big risk, too. And she’s no longer alone. She has an advisory board of other powerful women, all ready to lend a hand to the next woman with big ideas. But no one has bigger ideas that Luzio. She plans to expand Luminary to multiple locations, though for now, she's sticking to New York. In five years, she foresees being able to report quantifiable change thanks to her bright idea. "Metric-wise, I want to move the numbers," she says. Luminary is starting a workplace study with a partner that will track data to show that change is a reality. "There's room for everyone at the table, it's just harder," she says of women in business. But with the investment of her own hard-earned wages, hopefully it won't be as hard sooner rather than later. For more small business tips and inspiration create a free account on Hello Alice or subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Aug 29, 2019 • 2 min read
New Majority

Open Letter from a Gay Entrepreneur

I once had a small pet grooming business, selling my services to the public in a smallish town in California. For five years in the mid-2000s, I engaged with potential and active clients, advertised my business, and built positive relationships…without disclosing the fact that I was gay. During that time, I felt that it was risky to be an “out” small business owner, even in sunny, tolerant California. I had heard stories of anonymous or direct threats and insults, and even property damage, happening to “out” entrepreneurs. Had I reached out to investors to expand my business, I probably would have stayed closeted with them, as well. I dared not be open, or refer to my partner freely, for fear of a bad reaction and/or lost income. It was a painful situation to be in — to know that I would have to risk it all in order to be honest and truly myself with my clients and local community. Well, times have changed, and I am now legally married and “out” to everyone I know, as are many of my peers in the LGBTQ community. Although there is still some degree of hesitation to be out when dealing with our small businesses, there is a bit of relief that comes as an LGBTQ business owner and with the discovery that I feel (generally) safe from judgement and repercussions from my customers. That relief is increasing as we gain more and more support for our rights from the American public and attract allies who speak, lobby, and protest on our behalf. Straight people are more accepting and supportive of our lives and our businesses than at any time in history, and that is how it should be. The younger LGBTQ generations will grow up without so much of the anxiety faced by their elders, and they may find it difficult to relate to what I am writing about. I truly hope this is so. For the rest of us, who have wrestled with inner conflict and external pressure about being openly ourselves in our professional lives, we can continue to support one another as we look forward to a brighter, friendlier future for ourselves, our loved ones, and our small businesses. We don’t have to hide. We don’t have to disclose. We can treat our sexuality and gender identity as the irrelevant personal matters they are, should we choose not to fly a rainbow flag over our storefronts. We no longer need to feel powerless in the face of open discrimination. We are legitimate and a force to be reckoned with as individuals and as a group, especially in the entrepreneurial world. We, LGBTQ folks, are a dynamic part of the small business community, as well as a major consumer group with dollars to spend at friendly establishments. We are no longer ignored or disrespected by the media and marketers. Again, this time in our history is unprecedented. The time has never been better for LGBTQ entrepreneurs to start a business. Despite my optimism, there is still lingering doubt among LGBTQ entrepreneurs in the United States when it comes to coming “out.” According to StartOut, 37 percent of LGBTQ entrepreneurs who are funded or seeking funding are not “out” to their investor partners. Of those, 47 percent said it was because it was not relevant, and the rest thought it wouldn’t help (6 percent), could hurt them (12 percent), or said it was for a different reason or just gave no answer (35 percent). The good news is that today’s LGBTQ entrepreneurs have myriad resources and organizations dedicated to helping them succeed, especially because of that identity. From the Gay Entrepreneurs Network to the National Minority Supplier Council, small business owners have tremendous support and opportunities. And as members of a historically disadvantaged group, LGBTQ entrepreneurs have minority-owned-business status and can apply for federal contracts and other opportunities not open to just anyone. (For more information on that, check out the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s “Get Certified” tool.) There are many networking groups and communities just for us. To not take advantage of these resources would seem shortsighted, even if a person were usually private about their personal identity. I encourage all LGBTQ entrepreneurs and small business owners to explore the LGBTQ organizations and communities that have been curated on Alice. I helped assemble this list of resources for Alice, and I know they all have excellent missions to assist us in any way they can. LGBTQ represent 1.4 billion small business owners nationwide, adding jobs and growth to the United States economy. It’s time we come into our own, and we don’t have to do it on our own. Register for free on Alice and get the help you need to launch and grow your business.
Jun 7, 2018 • 3 min read
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New Majority

Gender Diversity is More Than Numbers

Like many founders, we are lucky to work in a field that is our passion. Every day we help people understand the power and impact women provide in leadership roles. We have worked in every region of the world. Kristin has built programs and consulted governments in difficult contexts like South Sudan and Afghanistan, not exactly places well-known for empowering women. And Jessica has advised women political candidates running for top political positions in our states and the country. We have advised women who are changing the status quo, redefining gender norms, and becoming “firsts” in their fields. In every case, we are helping others better appreciate the value that women bring, explaining that difficult problems will be better solved when women and men work together to tackle them. When people talk about gender diversity and inclusion, most ask about the numbers. How many women are in leadership, management and so on. We often hear the phrase, “we have a lot of women at our company.” But while tracking the numbers is essential, these data points only paint part of the picture. They are simply a snapshot of a challenge that is much more complex. Today, the United States is ranked 102nd globally in women’s political representation. That means 101 countries have more women in elected office than we do. And the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index ranks the United States 49th globally when measuring for gender disparities in the key factors of politics, education, economic, and health opportunity. As you would probably agree, neither number is good. But while these numbers have significant room for improvement, they are only a piece of the gender diversity puzzle. Beyond analyzing the numbers, we also must look at culture. Culture reflects the tangible ethos and experience of a place, company, or organization. It represents the values and priorities of the people who make it up. And, it can help people to thrive — or do just the opposite. While the numbers in the U.S. are low, we have witnessed and tracked a much more robust cultural conversation throughout the American media about that fact that there is a lack of women in leadership. This is something that we do not always see in other countries that rank much higher than us. This cultural discussion is huge. For example, American culture has developed in such a way that has allowed for movements like #MeToo to resonate, take hold, and begin to transform that national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse. #MeToo was hardly the first-time women have spoken up about this pervasive problem in the workplace. But we have developed the cultural underpinning for a wave of activism that has become a movement. Much like the culture of a country, a company has a culture that is a living, dynamic part of an organization that needs development, nurturing, and appreciation. An organization’s culture, and the way it reacts to the support for women is immensely important when it comes to building a place where women truly feel like they can thrive. This is why we must be intentional about addressing culture head-on and examine organizational values — and how they are borne out each day in the workplace. These cultural dynamics are essential for sustained inclusion, but are often missed. As we continue to tackle and struggle to build gender diversity in nearly every company, organization, and region of the world, we hope you will also look well beyond the numbers.
May 17, 2018 • 2 min read
New Majority

What It’s Really Like to Be a Woman Entrepreneur in a Male-Dominated Industry

She successfully launched one of the few women-run distilleries in the U.S. — How she did it and her advice for all women founders Jill Kuehler is the founder of Freeland Spirits, one of only a few woman-run distilleries. She is based in Portland, Oregon and has a Master’s Degree in Education from Portland State University and a BS in Community Health from Texas A&M University. What led you to launch your company, Freeland Spirits? Before Freeland Spirits, I had spent 12 years working in the nonprofit world, with a focus on agriculture and education. During that time, I also happened to be a lover of spirits, and being so ingrained in the agricultural world, I became really aware that there wasn’t much of a story being told about the ingredients in the sprits that I loved so much. So, when my friend who is a rancher in Eastern Oregon, came to visit me, I told her that I wanted to start making whisky, and she said, “If you do, I’ll grow the grain for you!” That got me really excited and made me realize I could actually do this. Soon after, I met Molly, who is our Master Distiller. She has a background in chemistry and was running a small distillery in Bend, Oregon. I slowly lured her to Portland and now, together we’re a great team. Molly Troupe, Master Distiller, Freeland Spirits As an entrepreneur, is there something you that you wish you had known, back then, when you started, that would have really helped you? Definitely not. I feel like, had I known how hard it was going to be, it may have deterred me. I think not knowing is better. I mean, in this business, there are so many regulatory issues, and it’s so capital intensive, with equipment and leasing space. It’s almost better to not know what you’re getting into, and just take one problem at a time, learn as you go. What is something you think most people do not know about you? That’s a tough question, because I am a pretty open book. I was in the Peace Corps in Guatemala for two years and that was where I really gained my passion for agriculture. Who is someone who is inspiring you right now, and why? There’s a clothing company called Wild Fang. It was created by women who believe there was no clothing brand that reflected their tomboy, ass-kicking style. What I really admire about them is they aren’t afraid to be political and just truly brave, and every act they take demonstrates the mission of the company. My daughter is also huge inspiration to me too. When she sees the decisions I make, I want her to see someone who is striving for a dream, and I look forward to someday being able to help her fulfill her dream. [Editor’s Note: for more inspiring companies and women entrepreneurs — click here] I think one of the beauties of women-owned businesses is that we often approach it with a greater sense of a community mindset. Obviously, there are a lot of great things about having your own business, but what is one of the things you find less enjoyable, but that you think is necessary for you to do to run your business? I think it’s the paperwork. There’s just so much red tape with distilleries. I have to file with the government, the state and locally. And I miss sleep. Jill Kuehler, Founder of Freeland Spirits The more business grows, the more you’re going to be on-boarding new employees to help you. Is there a task you would never delegate to anyone, that you would want to hold onto, for whatever reason? I don’t think so. I think one of the beauties of women-owned businesses is that we often approach it with a greater sense of a community mindset. So, I love having more people involved in decision making. For so long, for three years, this idea lived in my head, and even just having Molly on board is such a game changer. Having somebody in this with me, that we’re creating something together, is great. Being part of this industry that is mostly male-dominated, what would you recommend for any other woman who wants to enter the industry? I would say, come learn with us. We can’t wait to train more women distillers, and we want to have a training program of our own. All industries benefit from diversification and we can’t wait to see more women, people of color, and LGBTQ entering the craft distilling industry. [Editor’s Note: For more on the topic, check out our diversity & inclusion collection] Being a woman in this industry, have you ever experienced “mansplaining”? What is the most common reaction you get from men who have been in this industry a long time? Yes, but Molly definitely has some interesting stories. For instance, she’s given distillery tours and some of the men would ask her if they could meet the distiller, and she has to say, “Well, that’s me.” And the worst part is they don’t believe her….until she starts using words like “azeotrope.”
Mar 27, 2018 • 3 min read
New Majority

10 Badass Women Entrepreneurs to Admire

On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating role-breaking female founders across the world. What makes a badass woman entrepreneur? She’s the woman who creates opportunity for herself and for others. She breaks down barriers and paves new paths for her generation and future women in business. And she creates changes in the world that leave positive, lasting impacts for others. Today, on International Women’s Day, we salute the many girls and women out there who are kicking butt and taking names. To celebrate this special day, we are highlighting 10 badass women who inspire us every day. We hope they will ignite the fire in yourself to pursue your dreams. And don’t forget, you can find more inspiring stories about women entrepreneurs on our platform: HelloAlice.com. Anna Auerbach Werk, Co-founder & Co-CEO Anna is a former McKinsey consultant and social impact COO. There’s no doubt that she’s one smart cookie. Anna’s a Harvard Business School grad who learned her first lesson in entrepreneurship when she moved to the U.S. as a refugee at age 6, knowing just one word of English. In 2016, she co-founded Werk with Annie Dean. Since then, the job search platform has kept more talented women in the workforce by offering flexible schedules. Janet Gurwitch Castanea Partners, Operating Partner Janet joined Castanea Partners as an operating partner in 2011 with over 15 years of experience in the branded personal care and consumer products sectors. Before mentoring and investing in female founders, like Alli Webb of Drybar, Janet was the founder and CEO of Laura Mercier Cosmetics and Skincare, a global brand of high-end niche cosmetics. Janet also honed her expertise in beauty and fashion as Executive Vice President of Merchandising at Neiman Marcus, where she set the strategy for and oversaw the ready-to-wear, fashion accessories, shoes and cosmetics departments. Patrice Banks Girls Auto Clinic: Founder Patrice Banks is opening up the male-dominated automotive industry by bringing a fresh perspective to the garage. Passionate about equality and empowerment of women, business leadership, innovation, technology and STEM education, Patrice promotes positive messages for female inclusion and empowerment in the auto industry through her #sheCANic movement. With the Girls Auto Clinic, Patrice provides a large segment of the market (women) with quality, fair pricing and, best of all, respect. Kesha Cash Impact America Fund: Founder and General Partner Kesha Cash founded Impact America Fund (IAF) to harness market opportunities overlooked by traditional investors. This amazing organization was founded due to her mission to transform the economic livelihoods of marginalized communities in America. Kesha grew up in economic hardship and is her family’s first college graduate. A Columbia MBA and applied mathematics student from UC Berkeley, Kesha spent the first decade of her career as a mergers and acquisitions analyst at Merrill Lynch, an operational consultant to inner-city small businesses in Los Angeles, and an impact investments associate at Bridges Ventures in the UK. Katherine Ryder Maven, Founder and CEO Katherine is the founder and CEO of Maven, a startup transforming women’s health in America by offering accessible and affordable healthcare via its digital care platform. Prior to Maven, Katherine worked as an early stage investor at the venture capital firm Index Ventures in London. But investing and healthcare aren’t her only specialty. In 2009, she worked with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to write his memoirs about the U.S. financial crisis. Vicki Saunders SheEO, Founder Vicki Saunders is an entrepreneur, award-winning mentor and advisor to the next generation of change-makers. She’s previously started and run ventures in Europe, Toronto and Silicon Valley. Through SheEO, Vicki’s passing on her expertise in funding to up-and-coming women entrepreneurs. Vicki has been a passionate and committed mentor to over 1000 businesses in her career and is currently working with over 30 high potential social entrepreneurs around the world. Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton Chillhouse, Founder & CEO Cyndi recently opened Chillhouse, an NYC destination where clients come to relax and recharge with specialty beverages and spa services. The combination café/spa offers city dwellers an escape, with a café of organic drinks and snacks and spa services for nails and body. Cyndi previously founded the digital style magazine, “Taste the Style,” and was a partner in the hospitality team behind The Garret Bar, Dinnertable and Dullboy. With Chillhouse, Cyndi is bringing health-conscious relaxation in an accessible setting and at affordable prices. Meagan Ward Femology & Creatively Flawless, Founder Meagan began her career with a tenacious work ethic learned from her mother and a Business Marketing degree from Western Michigan University. In 2013, she opened her consultancy firm, Creatively Flawless, and less than three years later, she started Femology, a coworking space for women entrepreneurs in Detroit. In addition to Creatively Flawless, Meagan is also the founder of women’s empowerment organization The Powerful Women: Cultivating Women of Excellence. Soraya Darabi Trail Mix Ventures, Co-founder and General Partner Soraya co-founded Trail Mix Ventures to invest in edgy, bold companies outside of NYC, particularly those committed to “the future of living well.” She began her career as Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media at The New York Times and went on to co-found Foodspotting (acquired by OpenTable) and Zady. Soraya made Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Inc.’s 30 Under 30, and Fortune’s 40 Under 40. She was twice named a Mentor of the Year by TechStars, is a YGL at The World Economic Forum, and serves as a NY State Trustee for The Nature Conservancy. Anna Mason Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Partner Anna has over 10 years of experience in finance, startup operations, and venture community programming. When she’s not helping entrepreneurs get funding, Anna serves in a volunteer capacity as the Co-Director of the Washington Chapter of The Vinetta Project. She is also a founding Organizational Board Member for The BEACON DC, an initiative launched to help make DC the top city for women entrepreneurs. Prior to that, she co-founded a fitness-community app that was acquired in 2015. Anna is also a certified health coach and a published author; her first novel, They All Fall Down, was published in September 2015. This post was originally published on HelloAlice.
Mar 9, 2018 • 4 min read
New Majority

We Must All “Walk the Talk” When it Comes to Supporting Women & Minority Entrepreneurs

Ruth Cook is an entrepreneur who leads HireHer’s efforts to connect diverse talent with innovative industries faster. Through the HireHer technology and services, Ruth enables employers to recruit, engage and retain diverse talent. Take me back to the moment you decided to launch HireHer. What inspired you to take the leap? Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I have always dreamed of owning my own business. Also, the cruel realities many women, including myself, confront in the workplace motivated me. But it was my late sister, Lynne, that really inspired me. Her stories were particularly compelling although familiar. She worked as an engineer in a male dominated industry where harassment and bigotry were rampant. What troubled her the most were the barriers to advancing her career despite her awesome accomplishments. I launched HireHer to eliminate barriers for those who are working in fields where they are underrepresented and therefore struggle to advance their career. My goal for HireHer is to ensure all women to have a path beyond mid-career. That’s really inspiring. You’ve spoken of the importance of men being strong allies for women. Tell me about some of the men in your life that have supported you in your journey. I have five brothers, a loving father and a supportive husband. My sister and I were the only girls among all these men. So, I can say firsthand that men are great allies! They really excel when you tell them exactly what you need and how they can best help. During my founding journey and launch, men have advocated for me, opened doors, made introductions, and proudly said, “she is worth it!” My first ally was my father. But to just mention one or two allies would be unfair. I feel like I am surrounded by a Universe of male allies who know there is a problem, want to help me fix it and are willing to provide resources and opportunities to ensure my success. To me, this is quite beautiful. It sounds like you have an amazing support group. What is something most people don’t know about you? I really like this question. I was worried you were going to ask, “What is your favorite, puppies or unicorns?” And that would have been tough. What people don’t know about me is I am a huge dog lover! I own Akita dogs, and I love to train them in both Japanese and English. They are so fun, brave, strong and nice pillows after a long day. Puppies versus unicorns would have been very hard! I love both too. Aside from your family, who do you find inspiring? All these brave women telling their stories in real time and vivid detail is also inspiring. The sheer strength and bravery of every single woman in the #MeToo #TimesUp movement is amazing and, frankly, inspiration doesn’t fully capture the sentiment. I am proud and comforted. I am also inspired by the quiet acknowledgment of those who support the movement who are living it, have experienced or witnessed it, but aren’t ready or can’t risk telling their story. Honestly, I feel like I am standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of sisters, and they hold me up and inspire me each day. I am fighting with them and for them. If you could have three wishes granted, what would they be? 1. Peace on earth 2. Loving kindness for all by all 3. Stuff for all that “they” need to survive happily When you think of HireHer in 5 years, what do you see? I see broken barriers for women who now advance their careers as high as their aspiration, determination and education will take them. Exciting new advancements in innovative industries have improved society. This is in part due to the inclusion of women and underrepresented groups in decision making occupations. Thanks to supportive investors aligned with the HireHer mission, and all the women and men who utilize our offerings, HireHer will give back to communities by supporting educational opportunities and the advancement of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math. On the horizon, we can see scientific breakthroughs and technological problems solved by the talent we provide and cultivate. That’s a great goal and vision. February being Black History Month, it’s safe to say we’ll see a heavy focus this month on empowering black entrepreneurs. But what can individuals and organizations do throughout the year to support black entrepreneurs, especially women? Invest in their promise. Listen, empathize, uplift and walk the talk. Showcase their talent and believe in it. Contribute to their success. Celebrate them and your contributions toward positive outcomes. If empowered to create opportunities, do it. Be bold, not bashful, as you are creating the future. Make it bright!
Feb 7, 2018 • 3 min read
New Majority

How to Be an Ally to Black Women Entrepreneurs: A Primer

It’s February, and our focus shifts to celebrating Black History Month. Celebrating history is important, and acknowledging the contributions of Black heroes is critical to understanding the true story of America. I love hearing about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but I’m equally interested in MAKING Black history and in honoring those who are working every day to expand the boundaries of the Black experience in America. One group that is doing this, is the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US: Black women. They are changing history by being courageous enough to take the leap into being a business owner. If we are committed to becoming allies and creating an equitable America, we can and should support them. How can you help? Buy from them. It sounds simple, but if we want these businesses to grow, we will patronize them. Unfortunately, this is going to take a little more research than we’re used to. These companies don’t always have the biggest marketing budgets. They don’t always have prime placement on the shelves. They don’t always come up on the first page of the Google results. Being an ally takes work. Invest in them. Black women still receive less than 0.2 percent of all venture capital. These businesses tend to be grossly undercapitalized and I don’t have to tell you that an engine can’t run without fuel. Some of these businesses may not fit the typical investment mold. Their ownership structure and team makeup may not include a Stanford graduate. They may be a little older. They may live outside Silicon Valley, New York or Boston. Take the risk anyway. They have great ideas and the passion to execute them. You have to feed what you want to grow. You can’t just be an ally in thought. Step in with your deeds. It’s high time we made some new history. Mentor them. 95 percent of Black-owned companies are sole proprietorships. Many never grow beyond one employee. These women are working hard in their business, but they don’t always have what they need to grow. Partner with them. Bring them in as subcontractors. Share your business knowledge with them in a way that feeds their growth and stability. Pay them fairly. If you paid the last guys that did a project for you $5,000, then don’t pay that Black woman $1,200. Even if she lowballs herself, have the integrity to pay her the market rate. Amplify their voices. One of the biggest challenges Black women entrepreneurs face is being invisible to the larger business universe. How do you help? · Follow them on social media. Retweet them. Quote them. Share their stories with your network. · Feature them. Write about them. Highlight them on your podcast. Share the spotlight. · Invite them to speak at your events and pay them to do so. · Refer them. Your endorsement matters. People buy what they know or what their friends suggest. Suggest Black women owned businesses. · Normalize them. Don’t just include them for the diversity panel or Black History Month. Weave them into the fabric of your businesses and your lives. You can’t just be an ally in thought. Step in with your deeds. It’s high time we made some new history. Follow Denise @officialdham and @watchherworktv
Feb 7, 2018 • 2 min read
New Majority

How to Make Silicon Valley Inclusive

This article was first published on Hello Alice. Silicon Valley works…for Silicon Valley. Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: “privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily,” which explains why no matter how many conversations we have around the fact that tech has little to no diversity, the statistics refuse to change. Asking venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are achieving multi-billion dollar valuations to adjust their behaviors in the spirit of economic empowerment for all is a losing battle. The truth is, we have much to learn from Silicon Valley. They perfected the accelerator model, they know how to select and support unicorns, and there is a density of financial and intellectual capital that much of the world dreams of, particularly as it relates to technology. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t change what doesn’t work for the rest of us, because it is increasingly apparent that the efficiencies of this Silicon Valley model don’t transfer into the Appalachian or Andean valleys, or even to pockets of nearby San Francisco, for that matter. Until we have every corner of the planet playing a role in global innovation, we can’t expect to solve the problems that impact those regions. We can swipe right for the love of our lives, order Lebanese food to our doorstep at 3am on a Tuesday, and pretend we’re kitesurfing with a headset in our living room. There is no reason innovators working toward clean water, renewable energy and a cure for cancer shouldn’t be receiving the support they deserve. Traditionally, money and knowledge have circulated among a privileged few, and here’s where I’m going to call out investors (many of whom are dear friends, and many of whom are women or minorities themselves): you must stop limiting your investments to the people you know, because in doing so you are doing a disservice to the world. It pains me every time I hear an investor talk about how they have so much deal flow from their network that they just don’t have time to look outside, how they could never invest outside of the Bay Area or New York because they don’t have the capacity to support companies elsewhere, or how they only take meetings through warm introductions. You are perpetuating the problem. Become part of the solution, because there is a big world out there that needs your resources, and we’re all better off when you deploy them objectively. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening over the past decades. Below is the traditional model of innovation (figure 1.1), where wealth and knowledge are clustered around “supernodes” which continuously reinvest resources in those they are connected to. A prime example is the PayPal Mafia, as it is often referred: a lucky, smart and incredibly hardworking group of founders and alumni of the namesake company, which has spun off, invested in and acquired hundreds of new companies including Tesla, Uber and YouTube. This network continuously turns internally for conversations on the hot new startups to keep a watchful eye on, and ultimately invest in. They churn out innovation of increasing magnitudes, build new bodies of knowledge, generate additional capital, and surround themselves with others just like them. The homogenous makeup of the broader circle is a classic case of homophily, otherwise known as “birds of a feather flock together.” Figure 1.1 Meanwhile, there are founders working in Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City and sub-Saharan Africa on problems like waste management, education for all, and efficient transportation. Their worlds will likely never collide with the rich resources of the inner circle. The investors of Silicon Valley claim they are solving important problems, too. And they are. For that, I am grateful. But imagine if they collaborated with a new face of entrepreneurship? People who grew up near polluted waters, who had to make the hard decision to choose a day of school or a day’s wages, and who built the very roads we’re trying to make more efficient? Enter the open innovation model (figure 1.2), where technology empowers everyone with equal access, and decisions are made based on merit, not pedigree. Where investors, mentors, community leaders, corporations and governments cast a global net to identify the best innovation to fulfill their needs. For entrepreneurs, this means being able to efficiently identify every contract opportunity, pitch competition, community and expert that might support their growth. For those who support entrepreneurs, it means scrapping the “who you know” model, and giving the Black veteran in Minnesota the same exposure offered to the Ivy League grad who grew up in Palo Alto. Figure 1.2 It encourages more efficiencies, which helps investors make more money, entrepreneurs build stronger companies, and ecosystem leaders serve the founders they are best able to support. Like any big problem, the complexities arise within the simplicity of the solution. There are lots of issues to work through, no doubt. This is what Team Alice is dedicated to, and what we invite you to join us in figuring out how to solve. It will make a difference for all of us, but it also requires a commitment from all of us. If you support startups, we’ll share our learnings via a monthly webinar on how to build inclusive entrepreneurial communities. If you’re an entrepreneur in need of support, sign up at HelloAlice.com where we’ll be implementing our learnings.
Jan 24, 2018 • 3 min read