Invest outside your networks

Many Angels and VC’s invest in people they know, but what if your network isn’t diverse enough?

Originally published in Women 2.0.

 Photo courtesy of Pexels.com Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

There’s a phrase I hear in the venture capital world all the time: “Invest from your network; invest in people you know.” I get it. There needs to be a huge amount of trust between investors and entrepreneurs and what better way to establish trust than by reaching out to people in your networks through referrals and existing relationships? The problem is: what if your networks aren’t diverse enough? How many talented founders are getting overlooked, simply because they’re operating outside of certain networks?

I grew up in New Orleans, one of the more diverse cities in America. I lived in multi-ethnic neighborhoods and attended diverse public schools growing up. I’m lucky to have a big, sprawling family with members that span the gender, race, and sexual orientation spectrum. However, I still face challenges in making sure my network is diverse enough. As I’ve advanced my career in the technology, entrepreneurship and investing space, it’s been more of a challenge to maintain the level of diversity that I was accustomed to in my childhood. This is a journey and I’m the first to admit that I have more work to do.

In a global, digital economy, there’s no question that diversity is critical to success. I think that as investors, we need to find more creative ways to reach outside of our existing networks to find deals. The next wave of innovation may come from overlooked talent in unexpected places. This will mean stepping outside of our comfort zones more often. Most of us in the entrepreneurship space are already used to being bold, taking risks and trying new things, so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

There are many organizations working on diversifying the entrepreneurship and innovation space and lots of opportunities to engage, whether it’s Women 2.0Digital UndividedLesbians Who TechBlack Girls CodePipeline AngelsLatina GeeksGirls Who CodeCode 2040 and more. We’re starting to document some of these resources on our site as well, so please feel free to share others with us and we’ll add them to our list.

There is still a need for groups that focus on moving the needle for certain demographics, but it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to identify directly with one of these categories to engage with these groups. Most are very inclusive of allies who want to be supportive of the diversity movement and who want to expand their networks. So, go to an event, or better yet, sponsor an event or offer to volunteer your time.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in achieving diversity in the entrepreneurship space and it’s everyone’s problem and everyone can and should be a part of the solution. I’ve been hearing from white men on our mailing list recently who are wondering if our movement is for them and are grappling with their role. The answer is simple: Yes — we all can play a role.

  1. Start expanding your networks.
  2. Step outside of your comfort zone.
  3. Hire more diverse talent.
  4. Fund diverse founders.
  5. Fund organizations working towards diversity in entrepreneurship.

There are now 56 ways to list your gender on Facebook. We live in an era in which gender, race, sexuality, and ability are more fluid than ever before. Breaking down these boundaries is exciting and can help us to build a thriving, innovative future for all. Enough talk. Let’s start with our actions and our money. #FundingForAll.

Join our program this fall to learn more about making an impact by investing in women entrepreneurs of all colors.

Invest outside your networks 2018-06-19T15:19:46+00:00

Behind the scenes with angel investor and podcast star, Joanne Wilson

Originally published on Women 2.0 here.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Joanne Wilson, one of the most prominent and prolific angel investors in the startup space to discuss how she’s championing women entrepreneurs through her podcast.

W2: What inspired you to start the Positively Gotham Gal podcast?

I have been writing a blog post every week called “Woman Entrepreneur of the week” for the past 6 years. It was time to tell the story of the countless women entrepreneurs out there in a new format.

W2: Why do you feel that it’s an important time to support women entrepreneurs?

The only way that we will see true gender equality is when more women become household names from growing companies that will either get sold, go public or make a difference in how we live our lives. When that happens it gives the next generation of young women the ability to look to role models and say “I can do that because she did” and never once believe that the world isn’t their oyster.

W2: What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned while creating the podcast?

I really enjoy chatting with people about their history, their insight, their businesses and more, so it is the perfect medium for me.

W2: As an investor, what’s one thing you’d like female founders to keep in mind when going out for funding?

When someone isn’t paying attention to your pitch and it is obvious that they could care less about your business, then pack your bags and leave the meeting. You want people to invest in you that are as excited about your business as you are. I have heard countless stories of women being treated in ways that are unacceptable and it is up to us to cut off that type of negative behavior and walk out of those meetings…and then of course spread the word. There wouldn’t be investors if there weren’t entrepreneurs. There should be respect on both sides of the table.

W2: What’s next for you and how can our community offer support?

I am always growing and changing. I’d be thrilled for people to tune into my podcast and read my blog. I care about the women entrepreneur community and I hope that the thoughts that I put out there resonate and make a difference.

Joanne Wilson is an Angel Investor, Blogger, Co-Founder of WeFestival and runs Gotham Gal Ventures. Listen to the Positively Gotham Gal podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes. Twitter: @theGothamGal

Behind the scenes with angel investor and podcast star, Joanne Wilson 2018-06-19T15:20:03+00:00