Our Continued Commitment to Building a More Inclusive Design & Venture Ecosystem

Diversity and inclusion is part of our DNA as a fund co-founded by Ben Blumenrose, an immigrant from Israel, and Enrique Allen, a multicultural person of color from the Eastside of Silicon Valley. Since our inception, we've focused on a number of D&I levers including investing in 17 women-founded teams, elevating more women design leaders, giving scholarships to minorities in design and even sponsoring research on how to encourage more high school students from underserved areas to pursue design careers.

Last year we announced a number of initiatives in solidarity with Black and underrepresented founders and designers in our community. As part of holding ourselves accountable to these commitments, below is an update on what we did.

Be more accessible to Black founders and write them checks

At least 1 out of 5 investments in the second half of 2020 included a founder from a Black or historically underrepresented background. For example, we recently announced our investment in a Black owned business Revi, a new way to help local businesses serve and connect with their customers. Learn more about Revi CEO and Co-founder Eugene Johnson in our interview here. In addition, there are more diverse founders in our recent cohort of investments. Nearly half of our core investments in the last two quarters included a female founder. We're in the process of updating our onboarding to include a survey about gender, race and ethnicity to improve our tracking.

We also said we'd meet 10 Black leaders in the venture ecosystem. Over the past 6 months we've reached out to 7 Black investors to share co-investment opportunities and offer our services including Kanyi Maqubela from Kindred Ventures, Graham Carney from GGV Capital, Stephen Deberry from Bronze VC, Megan Maloney from General Catalyst, Gabby Cazeau from Harlem Capital, Jules Walter from Google and Kathryn Finney.

Add more people of color into our advisor network

Our goal was to add 2 more BIPOC advisors to our network and we're excited to welcome Kat Vellos, former lead designer at Slack and Jared Erondu, Head of Design at Lattice, to our extended team. We're working on improving how we engage our advisors to find investment opportunities in companies with founders from underrepresented backgrounds and add-value to our existing portfolio.

Designer Fund, Kat Vellos, Jared Erondu, Diversity, Inclusion

Create more paths into design and tech for Black people

We need to drastically broaden the top of the funnel and improve career pathways for underrepresented candidates if we're going to increase diversity in tech. One way to help achieve that is to make training and education opportunities more accessible to minorities. With the help of Google and Shopify, we gave 10 scholarships to underrepresented design leaders, including 7 Black designers, to participate in our Business Essentials for Designers workshop. They also got the opportunity to connect with hundreds of designers from top companies thanks to our co-sponsors Shopify and Google.

In addition, we hosted Office Hours for Black and underrepresented founders and received over 40 requests. We met with 25 of those 40 founders who each received 1:1 time with our advisors. We're working on building our capacity to host more of these events in the future including hiring a Community Manager to help produce more events.

Lastly, we continued supporting local organizations—Inneract Project and Streetcode Academy—that are paving the road for the next generation of young designers and technologists from diverse backgrounds. Inneract Project empowers underrepresented youth through design education and primarily serves middle and high school youth who identify as Black, Latinx and/or of low-income backgrounds. Streetcode Academy empowers communities of color through free, high-quality, quarterly tech education classes across various age and ability levels. We encourage you to join us in donating to these organizations and let us know if you do by tweeting @designerfund so we can amplify your gift!

There's a lot of hard work to be done to build a more inclusive design and venture ecosystem beyond short-term protests and virtue signaling. We're committed to continuously improving how we incorporate diversity and inclusion efforts into everything we do at Designer Fund for the long-haul.