A few months ago, Jasper Kuria reached out to me about a new non-profit he was starting called The Black-Owned Business. His goal is to create a community of vetted, high-quality Black-owned professional services companies.
Like many things Amy and I have been supporting around racial equity; this was an easy yes. I have not historically paid close attention to the gender or race of the service providers that we use. After almost six months of learning about racial inequity in the US and what I can do to help eliminate racism, supporting more Black-owned businesses is something I’m committed to.
Jasper has started a campaign called Do the BOB. It consists of providing your support and sending out the following message on social media.
Citi Group estimates that if four key racial gaps for the Black community (wages, education, housing, and investment) were closed today, the US economy would grow by $5 trillion in the next five years. What $5 Trillion can buy:
- 140 million Teslas—a Tesla for every household in the US or,
- Monthly rent/mortgage payment for every US household for 3 years or,
- 7 new Iphones for every man, woman, child and beast in the US or,
- A Big Mac for lunch every day, for every US resident, for 7 years or,
- 26 Jeff Bezos or 2,000 Oprah Winfreys
Help grow the US economy by $5 Trillion. During Black Friday season, ask your company or organization: Are you considering Black-owned Professional Services Companies when hiring vendors?
I request [@Friend One], [@Friend Two] and [@Friend Three] to also “Do The BOB” by sharing the logo and text on social media.
Learn More: https://www.theblackownedbusiness.org/do-the-bob
Update: After getting some negative feedback about taking the other post down, I decided to put it back up with an intro relating back to this post. I’ve left this post unedited.
I rarely take down a blog post.
After plenty of feedback and activity, I’ve decided to take down the post from last week titled A Conversation With Dan Caruso About Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club. The primary reason is the progress from the BCC board’s approach in the past week.
I received a lot of positive and negative feedback on the post. The feedback covered a wide range of topics, including:
- Gender equity
- Privilege and the notion that two rich White guys were complaining about an issue at an exclusive country club
- The approach we were taking
- How golf works
Not surprisingly, there were a few ad-hominem attacks at Dan and me, but I’ve become used to that whenever I write something.
My personal goal with the post was to highlight a gender equity issue and reinforce that gender equity issues happen everywhere in our society, including at exclusive member-only country clubs. While often difficult to sort through and resolve, I think it’s vital to address equity issues at all levels.
Dan and I connected today after processing all the feedback and change in approach from the past week. I’m not involved in any of the BCC discussions, so I’m deferring to Dan’s assertion that there is positive change happening around the debate. Ultimately we didn’t feel like leaving the post up was necessary.
Since several people attacked me directly on my agenda, neither Amy nor I are golfers, so we are not directly impacted by the golf issue we brought up in the post. While we are members of the Boulder Country Club, Amy only plays tennis, and I probably haven’t been there in at least a year, so I’m not a very active member.
Regardless, I care that there is gender equity in anything I’m involved in, so I hope BCC addresses this matter in a manner that results in policies and practices that are equitable.
Update: on 11/1, I wrote an update post titled Progress on the Discussion Around Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club. It gives more context on the progress in the past week around this discussion along with some additional context on the motivation for this post.
Initially, I took this post down, which I rarely do. I then got negative feedback about taking the post down. Since I rarely take posts down, I decided to put it back up with this introduction. If you are seeing this post now, please also read Progress on the Discussion Around Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club.
Brad: Hey, Dan. Like Cindy and you, Amy and I are Boulder Country Club members, but we play tennis, not golf. Is it true that only men can golf on Saturday mornings?
Dan: Yes. Believe it or not, you must indeed be male to golf on Saturday mornings. There are a few exceptions. During the winter season, women can golf on Saturday mornings. Women can also use the 9-hole Par 3 course on Saturday mornings all year round.
Brad: Wow. Really? Women aren’t allowed to golf on the main course on Saturday mornings except during winter months?
Brad: That’s disappointing. Why is the policy of men-only golf on Saturday mornings still in place?
Dan: That’s a good question, Brad. I’m embarrassed to say that I never gave it much thought until recently. The past few months’ events have led us all to soul search on equity, with the primary focus being racial equity. As I reflected, I began to consider this BCC policy. It was very spontaneous. The thought came to me, and I challenged myself to bring it up to the Board Chairperson and the General Manager.
Brad: I understand a fellow venture capitalist is Board Chair. I don’t know the GM. Did you approach them?
Dan: Yes. I had a Zoom call with them in August, and we had an email exchange in the subsequent days.
Brad: What did they say?
Dan: They said this issue had been brought up only once in the past 20 years. They seemed surprised that this would be viewed as a gender equity matter. They pointed out that women leagues get exclusive use of the club during blocks of time on Tuesday and Thursday morning while men get exclusive use during Tuesday evening for a men’s league and Saturday morning for men’s only usage. They said they checked with some women golfers and that they preferred this setup.
Brad: That sounds like an episode of Mad Men.
Dan: Mad Men was a great series. It illustrated how much the norms of one generation would give way to a more progressive era. I figured now that Saturday golf for men only was surfaced, it would get quickly on a path to change this relic from our past.
Brad: Did they address it?
Dan: Not yet. And, to be honest, it is unclear whether they will. They are positioning this as a golf tee time preference instead of a gender equity issue. They believe most golfers might prefer the current format, where women get the course during certain weekdays and Saturday mornings are exclusive to men.
Brad: Amy and I are members of BCC. This is the first we are hearing about this issue. Do we get to weigh in?
Dan: As I understand it, they are preparing a general survey that they plan to send only to golfers.
Brad: I view this as a gender equity issue that pertains to all members of BCC. Does BCC have a gender equity policy?
Dan: I raised this question but have not yet received a complete answer. I’m told the application process includes statements of equity. I’ve asked if there is a statement in the Bylaws or elsewhere. I didn’t get a clear response, though a question was asked during the Annual Board meeting, and the answer suggested something is in place.
Brad: You’d think this would be an easy question to address. Strange. You know, Amy and I were taken aback by the Men’s vs. Women’s card rooms’ inequity. When we got a tour as part of our interview process to become members, I remember seeing the tiny Women’s card room that stood in stark contrast to the opulent Men’s card room. We almost didn’t join BCC for this reason alone. I understand the renovation is addressing this, at least in part, which is good. Are there other examples of gender inequities?
Dan: I don’t know. I’ve suggested that BCC do a more thorough review of equity, including gender, race, and sexual preference. Perhaps this will be part of the survey, though the survey is said to focus on golfers.
Brad: So let me get this straight. They are going to focus the survey on golfers. Aren’t most golfers men? Won’t many of them be conflicted by their desire to have Saturday’s reserved for men only?
Dan: Yes. They are conflicted. I know that a lot of male golfers enjoy their Saturday morning golf. Some of them, I learned, are reserved specific tee times on Saturday mornings. I respect that the tradition of men’s-only Saturday morning golf has been an important part of their lives. This is why the overall issue is uncomfortable to address. A Y-chromosome shouldn’t be a requirement for golfing on Saturday mornings.
Brad: Changing this policy seems like a no-brainer. After all, it is 2020, and this is Boulder.
Dan: The chatter is that many golfers prefer the current system and will lobby for no change.
Brad: That’s disappointing. Amy and I know lots of BCC members. I’d like to think they would rally around changing this policy.
Dan: Most, I suspect, don’t know about it. The Board and Golf Committee haven’t shared it with the broad membership. Moreover, they are viewing it as a tee time preference issue instead of a gender equity issue.
Brad: Why are you doing this? Is Cindy a golfer? I know you have daughters. Are they golfers?
Dan: Cindy is a golfer. One of our four daughters is a golfer. I have two step-granddaughters — one is a newborn, and one is two years old. The toddler took her first golf swing in September. She needs to work on shortening her backswing.
However, my reason for surfacing this is about our responsibilities as leaders in our community. Zayo has 600 employees in Boulder, and half are women. Level 3, which I helped found, has even more Boulder-area employees. I collaborate with leaders like you to drive more inclusion into the entrepreneurial and business ecosystems. Many past and future employees of all these companies have or will be members of BCC.
Everyone I know wants golf to be a more inclusive recreation from both a gender and a race perspective. Our policies and practices need to communicate that we value all golfers equally.
For all these reasons, I’ve concluded we shouldn’t look the other way while knowing our country club has a stale male-biased practice.
Brad: Are others behind you on this?
Dan: We raised it with others, but we have not campaigned on a widespread basis. Knowing this could be an explosive issue, I didn’t want to put our fellow members in an awkward position. We are hoping BCC will raise this to the broad BCC membership in an appropriate way.
Brad: When you’ve raised it with others, what has been the reaction?
Dan: Every single person (excluding board/committee members) we’ve approached has rallied behind the need to open up Saturday morning golf to women. Several business and community leaders have expressed this support to the BCC board. Again, we held back raising this except to a half dozen or so friends.
Brad: How’s your back?
Dan: What do you mean?
Brad: I suspect you are taking some arrows.
Dan: I’m a Chicago Southsider, a cancer survivor, and a serial entrepreneur. I have lots of scar tissue on my back. More importantly, though, I have friends who have my back. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and I thank you for your public and private support!!!
Brad: For what it is worth, please know that Amy and I have your back as well!
Rodney was one of the dozen Black colleagues I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered. I asked them each the question, “What are two things you are doing to eliminate racism that I can support you with time, network, and money?” If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve seen some of the Black colleagues and initiatives I’ve gotten involved with.
Rodney and I have embarked on several projects together. The DEIS Practicum is one of them. We selected “Practicum” rather than “Summit” or “Conference” to signal that this is a “how-to” experience rather than a “why not” event. Our goal is for DEIS to be different from other D&I conferences.
In Rodney’s words:
- It is not a conversation to regurgitate the dismal data.
- It is not a self-centered, philosophical, diversity of thought, no results afterward event.
- It is not an opportunity for whiteness as a victim.
- It is not a performative event. No hashtags here.
Instead, we are being intentional about how to support an increasing number of Black board members, founders, CEOs, teams, suppliers, and anti-racist products. DEIS will present practical solutions for startup teams, accelerators, ecosystem builders, investors, and big tech companies.
The agenda (full agenda here) includes the following discussions:
- DEIS in Corporate Governance & Board
- DEIS in Human Resources & Talent Acquisition
- DEIS in Procurement
- DEIS in Edge Technology Product Development & Corporate Innovation
- DEIS in Go To Market
- DEIS in Venture Capital & Investment
- DEIS in Impact
We chose to do this together right after the election to send a signal around the importance of acting now to actually work together to create change, especially around the economic case for DEI.
Tickets are affordable and all net proceeds from the DEIS Practicum will support OHUB Foundation. Tickets provide access to the entire event and include a copy of the following books.
- A copy of Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Future
- A copy of The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
- A copy of Allies and Advocates: Creating an Inclusive and Equitable Culture (Nov 2020 release)
- A copy of Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms; and
- A copy of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table
Amy and I have helped underwrite this event from our Anchor Point Foundation. and I’m providing a copy of my newest book The Startup Community Way for free to all attendees. And, if you’d like to attend but can’t afford it, please drop me an email as some scholarships are available.
Please join us for the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Solutions (DEIS) Practicum.
Several people pointed me at Hadiyah Mujhid, the Founder and CEO of HBCUvc. We talked a few times and I offered to support HBCUvc in any way that she wanted. She asked me to support the expansion of HBCUvc’s VC Lab and Fund.
HBCUvc is seeking to expand its VC Lab and Fund program that invests in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx entrepreneurs building technology companies. The fund is managed by university students participating in HBCUvc’s Fellowship programs. Fellows originate and execute startup investments under the supervision of HBCUvc’s investment committee, a team of experienced venture capital investors.
Currently, while there are similar funding organizations for other universities, there are no funding groups affiliated with investing or supporting entrepreneurs from the HBCU ecosystem. For perspective:
- Dorm Room Fund (First Round Capital university fund targets Penn, Yale, Stanford),
- Rough Draft Ventures (General Catalyst university fund targets Harvard)
- Big Red Ventures (Student-run fund at Cornell)
- House Fund (Fund focuses on supporting entrepreneurs from Berkeley ecosystem)
The lab and fund builds on the foundation laid in HBCUvc’s fellowship programs and provides direct investing experience for the fellows with the following goals:
- Provide financial and technical support to emerging Black, Indigenous, and Latinx technology entrepreneurs
- Create experiential pathways for the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx venture capitalists,
- Close data gaps on capital allocation strategies best applicable to Black, Indigenous, and Latinx entrepreneurs
- Create a revenue opportunity for HBCUvc to sustain educational programming through returns
Primary learnings for the fellows include:
- Originating investment opportunities
- Conducting due diligence
- Syndicating transactions
- Executing transactions
- Supporting founders and portfolio companies
Expansion of the VC Lab and Fund will help bridge this funding gap, support more entrepreneurs, and provide venture experience to create a pipeline of Black and Brown VCs.
Austin Clements was one of the Black VCs I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered with the question, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?” I knew Austin from his time at TenOneTen Ventures (we are an LP) and I reconnected with him when he joined the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 25).
Among other things, he told me about Grid110 and why he was helping create and lead Grid110’s new program in South LA.
Grid110 is a non-profit with a mission is to foster the most thriving, inviting and inclusive community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. They believe that anyone with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur should have the chance to pursue it and receive support along the way. Their work impacts individuals who are often overlooked by traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems, making the the entrepreneurial path more equitable, inclusive and accessible.
I committed to providing funding for the program at the end of the call. Since then, the program has launched with its inaugural class and has been up and running since July.
Over 90% of the selected companies are led by Black and Latinx founders, and the majority of founders are women. The companies are wide ranging — from CPG products to B2B SaaS, from early childhood support all the way to death care services, from for-profit Co-Ops to non-profit boutiques. Some are first time entrepreneurs right out of college, others have long track records of shaping business and culture.
Tonight, I’m doing a virtual AMA with the program. I’m very looking forward to it.
Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, underwrote a new video series on PBS 12 called From Moment to Movement.
From the trailer:
Tensions around race relations have been simmering for centuries in the U.S. Now they’re now at a boiling point. Meanwhile, President Trump’s administration is treating Black Lives Matters protestors like domestic terrorists. Millions of Americans, especially Black Americans, continue to rally to make their voices heard. From Moment to Movement” aims to give a platform to African American voices and dismantle systemic racism.
The host, Tamara Banks, reached out to me shortly after George Floyd was murdered. She showed me a few of the pilot episodes, including an interview with Brandon Carter and an interview with Amy E. Brown. After watching them, I thought they were great and important and agreed to underwrite the whole series.
Two a week will be dropping on the PBS 12 website for the next few weeks. They are currently in production to be broadcast on TV as well.
Tamara – thank you for doing this and putting it out there.
Founded by James Oliver, the ParentPreneur Foundation empowers Black people to be the best parents and entrepreneurs possible providing them money, tools, resources, and social capital.
I’ve known James for several years. After George Floyd was murdered, James was one of my Black friends who I called up and asked, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?”
We talked about a couple of things, but when he started speaking about his dream to start a non-profit to help Black entrepreneurs who were also parents, I knew what I’d be supporting.
James is the perfect person to undertake this endeavor because he is acutely aware of the pain of parents who are entrepreneurs. James participated in the gener8tor accelerator and founded his startup, WeMontage.com when his now seven-year-old twins were born prematurely and weighed only two pounds each. During that difficult time, he was living 1,000 miles from family and friends, so he didn’t have much support.
Amy and I don’t have kids, so I listen to my friends who are entrepreneurs with kids about their experiences. Rather than assume their challenges are the same as mine, I recognize I have it easier in many ways, and enjoyed and learned from James’ book The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get.
In our conversation about this new foundation, James told me that being a parent and an entrepreneur is hard, but being a Black ParentPreneur is even harder.
“Black people don’t have the same resources as many of our White ParentPreneur counterparts. Many of us are first-generation college graduates, and we don’t have a relative we can call to give us money to hold us over until we can get enough traction with our business. Further, we generally don’t have the social capital to execute our good ideas or even imagine what is possible.”
Hence, the ParentPreneur Foundation, which James started a month ago. The inaugural cohort was recently announced and had ten Black ParentPreneurs who each received $1,000. The foundation also provides access to resources to improve beneficiary businesses and parenting lifestyles.
I’m excited about supporting James in the work he’s doing to help address issues of economic inequality in the Black entrepreneur community while helping strengthen families.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or connect with James to offer resources for the foundation’s beneficiaries.
And if you’re a Black ParentPreneur, join the foundation’s online private community.
I recently was in an email thread where a Black founder had a powerful and clear response to the question from one of her corporate partners. The question was:
How can our (the corporate partner’s) team better support diversity in our work, particularly in our sourcing, diligence, and onboarding efforts?
The entrepreneur responded with a long explanation that was a brilliant and extremely helpful perspective for me. It follows.
I think one of my core experiences, and a truth that we all have to grapple with, is that programs like yours should be thought of like higher education in 1960, or getting into a NYC Specialized High School today.
Were there no Black students at Harvard because Black people aren’t brilliant? No.
There were no Black students at Harvard because you have to get a certain score on the SAT to get in.
People who score well on the SAT either:
- Come from amazing school districts with a plethora of funding and the ability to prepare students adequately for the test.
- Come from families that can afford expensive SAT prep.
- Come from communities that have an infrastructure that supports robust SAT prep.
Because of institutional racism in our society, Black people:
- Have school systems with a lower tax basis and insufficient resources.
- Make less than half what whites do in many cities and don’t have the resources to sign up for SAT prep.
- Have had our communities and families decimated through mass incarceration and other racist policies.
If we juxtapose that analogy with startups, your team will need to ask itself what criteria you’re using for startups.
Black entrepreneurs have to find a way/make a way/invent a way to launch businesses with two arms tied behind our backs because we don’t get the same funding as our white counterparts.
So I have raised $2.5MM and have to compete with companies who have raised $25m and $70m respectively.
And yet, I’m constantly asked, “What’s your traction?” which is similar to “What’s your SAT score?”
We know that as a society, we are starving Black businesses for capital, and yet we expect them to hit the same milestone markers as businesses that have a plethora of capital. It’s like not feeding a cow yet expecting them to produce milk. It’s literally madness and maddening.
Thinking about your sourcing of Black companies is going to be a far more complex question than “Who do we call to find the amazing Black companies?” It’s going to be “How do we change our lens so we can see the amazing Black companies?” followed by “Once we bring them into our ecosystem, how do we support their journey in meaningful ways that can help to level the playing field = e.g. get them capital or get them revenue?”
Maybe we should stop asking “What’s your SAT score?” and instead ask, “Wow. How on earth did you maintain a 3.7 GPA, and cook for your little brother and sister every night because your mom had 2 jobs, and get an A in calculus without a high-paid tutor, and work a full-time summer job at Key Food while taking a class to teach you how to code at night? That’s a lot of grit!”
Maybe we’re measuring the wrong things in our entrepreneurial society, just as we’ve measured the wrong things in our larger society. Maybe we all need to start talking about grit instead of metrics that can only be achieved with money, and then make sure all entrepreneurs get the funding required to achieve equivalent metrics.
In response to my post, Contemporary Mentors, a female reader of this blog who often sends me notes when I fall into a pattern of highlighting cis-het-white men, responded directly to the post with:
I hope that you add more women and more diversity to your contemporary mentors. Otherwise you are in the same fucking echo chamber.
I responded with:
I have many women mentors. Here’s some: Lucy Sanders, Heidi Roizen, Madeleine Albright, Amy Batchelor, Wendy Lea, Nicole Glaros, Arlan Hamilton, Freada Kapor Klein, Lesa Mitchell, Jean Case … And many women who I learn a ton from that I wish I had a mentee relationship (or contemporary mentor relationship with) – (e.g. Melinda Gates, Susan Cain, Brené Brown).
I forgot a few in my quick response, including Joanne Wilson, Robin Hauser, and my mom (Cecelia Feld.) And even as I write this, the list continues to unfold in my brain, which makes me smile. But I also realize that most of these women are white, so I have work to do to find some non-white female mentors.
The reader is not a fan of Tim’s and went after my affection for him with the following:
I can’t listen to Tim’s podcasts because it’s the white bro-show…the very thing that led me to start my podcast in 2017. After he released the episode a few years ago on bitcoin and blockchain (which was brilliant) I tried to listen to him but his world is truly a distorted echo chamber. I don’t understand people’s fascination with him. Then again I don’t understand folks’ fascination with Gary V or Jack Dorsey…the list goes on and on.
I struggled with her view on Tim, but I don’t want to try to convince her otherwise. Instead, I’m more interested in listening and learning, which led to this comment of her’s.
True allies / accomplices see these things and call them out. It’s exhausting when we have to call it out for you cis-het-white bros. And yes, I have this convo with my husband on a regular basis.
Embedded earlier was the comment:
If you really are into helping out with diversity, calling this stuff out would be really helpful. Otherwise you perpetuate it.
I’ve been learning about how to be an ally / accomplish since 2005 when I was first introduced to the concept by Lucy Sanders at NCWIT. I’ve learned a lot about this from Robin Hauser through her film Bias (Amy and I are executive directors of Bias, Code, and Robin’s upcoming film $avvy) and have been going even deeper with some of my work recently around racial inequity.
But there’s almost more to learn.