“What does an entrepreneur look like?”
That picture could be changing.
For the first time in the 2014-2015 school year, students of color were the majority in the United States, said Freada Kapor Klein, partner with the Kapor Center for Social Impact and founder of the Level Playing Field Institute. Klein delivered the opening keynote at the CED Tech Venture conference in Raleigh Tuesday.
“What does that mean to a startup’s business? Who are your customers?” A company’s employees should look like its customers, she said.
Kapor invests in firms it believes will be both successful and have a social impact.
“We believe you can be successful and do good. The only color we care about is the healthy green of money. We do a brand of impact investing with the intention to generate a measurable business and social return.”
Kapor is seeking women and other minority entrepreneurs.
The Kapor Center’s investment arm, Kapor Capital, is the first venture fund to implement a founder’s commitment diversity and inclusion. It now requires a commitment from the companies it funds. Kapor has 110 firms in its current portfolio, 80 of which opted into the new commitment.
“We practice what we preach,” Klein said.
Kapor has four partners, two of them African American, and two-thirds of its investors are black or Latin ethnically.
Klein noted that biases toward minority entrepreneurs in tech begins early in secondary school and persists. In an experiment, a group of successful entrepreneurs who had obtained fundings and traction pitched to a group of investors – but the voice was changed. Result: 68 percent of those presented in a male voice were funded vs. 32 percent for women.
“We think we want the best companies and the best entrepreneurs but these biases can be blatant or unconscious,” Klein said.
Most venture capitalists invest in entrepreneurs of their own ethnicity, she noted.
Kapor also wrote a blog post about her views, published in conjunction with the conference.
“At Kapor Capital, we like to say that genius in America is evenly distributed by zip code, but opportunity is not,” she wrote. “Our success as a venture firm has stemmed from our interest to seek out this genius. We find great investments where others aren’t looking.”
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