I attend several startup networking events every week. The typical protocol at these events is to introduce who you are and your projects/company. Many times I share the organization Black Founders to the people that I meet at these events, who are often not black. If I am talking to a white person, a popular response (in an effort to be supportive) is an offer for an introduction to another black person in tech that they know. Even though this response is well-intentioned, it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the issues around diversity in tech. I don’t need an introduction to another black person. I need those non-black people to get to know more black entrepreneurs. I usually reply by extending an invitation for that person to become involved with the Black Founders organization and to attend one of our events.
Black Founders is not just for black entrepreneurs. In fact, the organization is created for the entire startup community. This does not take away from our mission to “increase the number of successful black entrepreneurs in technology”, but is an attempt to uncover the broader purpose of organizations that are founded in diversity and equality.
Why is it so important for non-black entrepreneurs to get involved with an organization for black entrepreneurs? For the same reason that anyone attends an event — to expand your network, meet people that you normally wouldn’t meet, learn something, and free beer. This is the reason why I’ve enjoyed attending startup events hosted by other cultural associations. I can proudly say that I’ve met great entrepreneurs from a variety of countries and backgrounds who have now become close friends.
So why create another organization? Why not encourage black founders to attend other startup events? We do. But for many reasons, not everyone is exposed to some startup events. Many black professionals working in tech are not even aware of Black Founders until we’ve reached out to them. Black Founders has served as a hub that actively reaches out to the black tech community and encourages their participation in the broader startup community. In addition to facilitating connections, we provide visibility for black entrepreneurs. Increasing the visibility of successful black entrepreneurs provides encouragement for the aspiring.
Finally, my favorite question: “Aren’t you encouraging segregation? Black people would be upset if there was a white founders organization.”
The truth is that there are ‘white’ founder groups — maybe not by official name, but certainly by description of its participants. These organizations may not publicly rally around their demographic, but often, the influence is the same.
As a Black Founders mentor reminded us earlier this week, our goal is to create the commonness of black tech entrepreneurs — that is how we get beyond the race conversation. And this is why Black Founders is for white people too.