Black Founders Need More Than Mentoring
Black founders need funding more than they need mentoring. Black founders need funding more than they need mentoring. I will repeat: Black founders need funding more than they need mentoring.
After America’s so called racial awakening in the summer of 2020, many companies, firms, and VC funds, wrestled with trying to figure out how to address all of the inequalities in this country dealing with race. They pledged to donate $50 billion to Black communities. Out of that movement, numerous incubators, accelerators, and venture funds dedicated to addressing racial and social inequalities were started.
Imagine the excitement of companies like Legal Equalizer, which had been working since 2015 to address these same exact issues, to see that these companies were now raising money to solve such inequities. We had been building for 5 years at that time, and we were beyond happy that the rest of the world was finally catching up to what we had been working on and to what we had been saying.
After years of struggling to raise money, we thought that this was the moment that we would finally be able to raise enough money to become a sustainable business that could grow at an even faster rate than we were growing.
What we quickly realized was that, despite this new burst of energy from people brand new to our field, we would still struggle to raise money. The amounts of conversations that I had with newly formed social justice venture funds that were led by white men who had no idea how prevalent the issue was just confirmed my thoughts that this was an exercise in self appeasement for many of them.
Here I am, a Black man who had been working on these exact issues for years now, having to explain to a bunch of White men who just discovered the issue why my solution would work. Some of them were incredible and truly passionate and dedicated about helping, and I am forever grateful to them. For every genuine person I spoke with, I would speak with two others who would try and steer me away from what I was doing and somehow center my business around White people.
Numerous incubators, accelerators, and funds were built off of people finally seeing and temporarily understanding Black pain, and yet too few of them actually offered funding and money to Black founders to solve these issues. For some reason, many people in tech believe that helping Black founders starts and ends with mentoring, and with workshops. They lure the founders in with the promise of possibly meeting investors at the end of the program, but despite being part of numerous programs, I have yet to see those Black founders get actual funding at the end of those programs.
While Black founders go through program after program and repeat the same exact lessons as the previous program in search of funding, their ideas are often stolen by non-Black founders who immediately get funding for the same exact idea. I’ve seen it happen personally to myself and to my company. I’ve started to advise other Black founders to not focus as heavily on going through VC funds, and to think about raising money in other ways.
I’ve been forced to adapt myself, as I am now working on a project that can raise money for Legal Equalizer independent of venture funding.
For the past few months, I’ve spent more time working on building a Black-friendly Web-3 ecosystem called Da Game to help raise money than I have spent chasing funds from accelerators or VCs. If those funds do come, I will be grateful, but I am not going to continue to wait as we continue to see over 1,100 people killed by law enforcement in this country every single year.
If you truly want to help Black founders succeed, please resist the urge to offer them mentoring solely. Please make sure that you provide these founders the resources to succeed. Please make sure that you are providing these founders with funding. Mentoring is great, but funding is more important.