First and foremost, we want the Black members of our community to know that we see them and stand with them in solidarity. The past week has further illuminated the senseless racism, killings, and violence that Black people experience every day and also our country's desperate need for police reform. Sadly, it's also highlighted another truth: the system is inequitable by design, so Black people and other marginalized groups can only succeed by overcoming the forces pushing against them.
Meaningful change requires immediate action, as well as a concerted and long-term effort by many people, governments and organizations. To that end, here are some of the initiatives we're doing to help create a more diverse and inclusive design + venture ecosystem:
- Be more accessible to Black founders and write them checks - While founders can contact us on our website, we also need to proactively collaborate with more diverse networks and investors. Referrals are a huge part of the venture ecosystem and we must broaden our connections to more founders of color. Over the next 6 months we'll meet with at least 10 Black leaders in the venture ecosystem to broaden our pipeline. In addition, we'll target 1 in 5 of our portfolio companies to have a founder from a historically underrepresented background in tech including, but not limited to: African American / Black, Hispanic / LatinX, and Indigenous / Native American. Underrepresented minorities need more ownership and access to capital to address widespread economic disparities.
- Add more people of color into our advisor network - Our talented group of advisors support our mission with referrals, due diligence and provide design resources to our portfolio companies. They also get upside in our fund, co-investment and advisory opportunities, and a chance to learn about the venture landscape. In addition to advisors like Dantley Davis and Diógenes Brito who are longtime advocates for diversity and inclusion, we'll add at least 2 more exceptional advisors who are Black and/or from underrepresented backgrounds.
- Create more paths into design and tech for Black people - We believe a key lever to social progress is to help fix the education gap. We'll make our professional development programs more accessible to Black people and underrepresented groups in tech by sponsoring at least 10 scholarships to our workshops every year. We'll also hold office hours on demand for Black and underrepresented founders. We'll continue to collaborate with and increase our financial support for organizations on the front lines of creating paths into tech and design like Inneract Project and Street Code Academy.
We believe it is both our moral obligation and also a smart investment in the future of this country to make these changes. In addition to working on our design and venture ecosystem we will be donating to organizations working towards police reform like JusticeLA, Bread & Roses community fund, and Life Comes From It. We welcome any feedback and look forward to building this future together.
– Ben, Enrique and the Designer Fund team