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Defining the Current State of The Ecosystem

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford III

Diverse Investor and Innovator Salon

COVID-19 and inequality disproportionately hit minority businesses. Analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals 41 percent of Black business owners disappeared in April. More than 80 percent of venture firms don’t have a single Black investor. Only 2.6 percent of venture capital dollars have gone to Black and Latinx startup founders so far in 2020. Additionally, only 3 percent of business investment goes to women.

On December 15, 2020, we convened investors and innovators to discuss the challenges of driving growth for underserved audiences and how we can help drive growth in the ecosystem. The event was in salon format, a gathering of people to increase our knowledge through conversation. Cocktail kits were mailed to each participant courtesy of event sponsor, Unicorn. Promo codes for our new humble t-shirts were also provided upon completion of the virtual event.

We hoped to discuss how business models — partnership, acceleration and acquisition strategies, including startups, investors, and corporations — affect ecosystem health. What are the gaps or opportunities that need to be addressed?

This 90-minute experience sparked a lively discussion and helped surface many insights around what is possible in 2021. The thought-provoking conversation surfaced positive forces driving us forward, the hindrances holding us back, and the resources required to achieve the ideal future state we envision for the ecosystem.

Social inequality trees down from the top. We discussed ways to make investing in us the norm and not the exception. There are too many reasons to say no, even when there’s proven outperformance. “It should not take another public execution for change to happen,” one participant said.

There are opportunities to influence, build the investing culture beyond a few well-meaning funds, and make drastic changes in the face of a talent shortage’s perception despite success on both sides of the table. We’ve identified the gatekeepers and key stakeholders for change. Lastly, we proposed a scope of activities to activate the community, convene private and public conversations, and publish reports assessing the ecosystem’s state.

We wrote this presentation that gives you specific details and a little more visual sense of the ecosystem. You can scroll through it or download it directly from SlideShare: []. We hope you take away new insights, renewed vigor to drive change in 2021 and bring the future state into fruition together.

Much appreciation and thanks to our participants: Onyedikachi Achilike, Kendrick Nguyen, Denmark West, McKeever (Mac) Conwell, William Crowder, Stefanie A. Thomas, Pilar Johnson, Bobak Emamian, Aaron Wilson, Rohit Gupta, T.T. Nguyen Duc, Iynna Halilou, Cheryl Campos, Maurice Boissiere, Jeff Cherry, Chaarvi Badani, Rodney Sampson, Pialy Aditya.

Harry Alford III is Co-Founder of humble ventures, a venture development firm accelerating tech startups in partnership with large organizations and investors.

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