Go Where You Are Celebrated, Not Tolerated

 

Less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to women, people of color, and LGBTI+ founders.

Traditional VCs see this as a pipeline problem but the truth is, there is no pipeline problem, there is a bias problem.

To navigate the bias, for many women and founders of color, when fundraising, this typically means seeking financial support from individuals or organizations that appreciate and value what you and your business bring to the market that you serve. 

This is exactly what Lucia Brawley and her husband Derrick Ashong, the co-founders of AMP Global and veterans in the music arts and entertainment industry did when they were striking out on their fundraising efforts in the U.S. for AMP Global.

AMP Global is a digital media platform that helps content producers build a direct relationship with their audience. The interactive mobile solution combines TV quality content with the interactivity of social media. So creators can build a direct relationship with their fans. Despite their Ivy League pedigree and industry success and awards, AMP Global was still struggling to raise capital until the couple relocated their family to the island nation of Mauritius on the African continent.

Derrick is from Accra, Ghana and Mauritius felt like the right fit to be between Africa and Asia. When the couple relocated to Mauritius, Africa’s hub for business and investment at the end of 2019 and focused on African investors and African business development opportunities, partnerships with brands, telcos and distributors, things changed. The couple raised more money in six months than they did in the four years prior! 

By changing their environment and shifting their focus to African investors and partners their fundraising results changed. When asked about the reason for the turnabout in fundraising results, this is what Lucia had to say:

“I'm American. I'm Italian, Mexican, and Irish.  So I'm American through and through…...

I love my country, but I think it's no surprise to anybody if I say it is a country built on a white supremacist patriarchal system. I don't think that is [a] big spoiler. So it is still hard. It is still hard. Even in so-called progressive bastions, like the Bay Area, about 0.4% of all funding goes to Black founders.

Point four, that's 99.6% [that] is not going to black founders. Imagine, Black people are 13 or 15% of the population.  Women overall and mostly white fare a little better. But not that much better. You know, maybe they get 2% of the funding. So, it starts to feel extremely discouraging when you're like, we are getting an Emmy nod, we're getting another Emmy nod.

We're working with Sony and Sea World and Pepsi, all these big companies and we're clearly making moves. Our team has a proven track record. If you look at their education and the places they've worked before and what they've accomplished, you could put 'em up with anybody and yet somehow there's something wrong with US.

Somehow it's our fault that we're not getting the funding we need just to hit our benchmarks and do what we need to do. I mean, that got really old. And there was a point where my husband was invited to an event in Silicon Valley and he [also] was invited to an event in Mauritius called the India Africa Entrepreneurship Summit by an amazing man named Baljinder Shama, who is now one of our lead investors and incredibly supportive advisor.

My husband said, what should I do? And I said, you should go to Mauritius. Go do the speech. He was a keynote [speaker] in Mauritius next to ministers from India and the Minister of Finance of Mauritius. I said, you need to go speak at that. I said, because you have to go where the love is. You could do summer salts and back bends in Silicon Valley, and no matter what you do, there'll always be another hoop and there's no amount of perfect you can be to get them to take you with the seriousness that your visionary, brilliant, charismatic, accomplished  mind deserves. You've worked with Oprah, you've worked with Spielberg, you have three Emmy nods, you went to Harvard, you went back for your PhD. You’ve consulted for Nokia and Visa and Interscope.

You've spoken on issues of tech and society at UK Parliament in the London School of Economics, MIT, Stanford, Harvard. But, somehow, they'll just, you know, do all the diligence and put you through all the paces. And then at the end of the day, for just some reason, they can't put their finger on, you know, they're just not gonna pull the trigger to invest in you.”

Listen to: S3. Episode 2: Go Where the Love and Money Reside with Lucia Brawley for more about how they left an environment that was difficult to navigate for a funding environment that for them, offered more opportunities.

If you are a founder who is struggling to fundraise, here are a few strategies and resources that may help you find where the love and money reside for your business:

  • Seek out specialized funding programs: Research specific funding programs or organizations that focus on supporting underrepresented groups or projects that promote diversity and inclusion. These programs may celebrate and appreciate individuals or ideas that are often overlooked in more traditional funding avenues.
  • Consider alternative funding models: Explore alternative funding models, such as impact investing, social entrepreneurship, or grants from foundations that align with your mission and values. These sources often prioritize businesses that generate positive social or environmental impact.

Some  Black-led funds to explore:

  • Sixty8 Capital: Sixty8 Capital is shining a light on undercapitalized founders and innovators.  Sixty8 Capital is a seed-stage Fund for Black, Brown, women, and LGBTQ+ led startups. They are industry agnostic, investing in tech, tech-enabled, and Direct-To-Consumer start-ups.
  • New Community Transformation Fund: NCTF- Den­ver is a ven­ture cap­i­tal fund based in Den­ver, Col­orado that invests in ear­ly stage BIPOC+ Founders. NCTF believe in a more diverse econ­o­my, dri­ven by eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty in Den­ver and Colorado’s com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. With greater access to cap­i­tal and essen­tial sup­port ser­vices, they’re cre­at­ing upward mobil­i­ty for entre­pre­neurs who haven’t been giv­en this oppor­tu­ni­ty his­tor­i­cal­ly. 
    • Listen to: S7 Ep. 3: Investing in BIPOC Founders and Normalizing Black Wealth with Danielle Shoots, Founding Partner and Managing Director
  • Backstage Capital: Backstage Capital has invested in 200 companies led by underrepresented founders.  "We invest in the very best founders who identify as women, People of Color and LGBTQI+

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