Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Will Black businesses go extinct? With the state of the world as it is with the pandemic, Black businesses have been hit the hardest. According to this study, 41% of Black-owned businesses experienced the most losses in 2020. If this continues, it will be harder for Black-owned companies to recover, and most of these businesses have no choice but to close their doors. And considering the long-standing broader racial inequalities, how do we prevent this from happening? Black Girl Ventures (BGV) exists to create and provide a level playing field for underrepresented Black and Brown women-identifying founders who have long gone unnoticed by investors. Just 1% of Black women receive funding from investors compared to their White counterparts who receive 77%.
Over the last three years, Black Girl Ventures and Google have partnered on a series of workshops and BGV style pitch competitions. From just 2018-2019 alone, with the support of Google, BGV held 13 pitch competitions and 11 education programs with 6,168 attendees and helped over 100 Black and Brown women founders gain access to social and financial capital. 90% of BGV Alumni report that the BGV Pitch Program has given them access to a new network and customer traction.
BGV aims to collaborate with more investors, sponsors, and businesses with the hopes of eliminating the myth that Black-owned companies are too risky and lack the level of preparedness necessary to receive vital infusions of capital to create sustainable business success. We were ecstatic to read the headline, "Expanding our support for Black founders" and "Google Launches Accelerator in North America to Support Women Founders" in our inbox. We caught up with the amazing human that has been the fire behind the BGV x Google partnership, Jason A. Scott, who heads the U.S. startup developer ecosystem for Google to discuss the expansion of support for Black founders. The Google for Startups Accelerator is a virtual three-month program for Black founders from across the country.
How do partnerships like this help change the face of entrepreneurship?
To me, Black Girl Ventures has always represented access, exposure, and community for Black and Brown women across the United States. In my current role at Google, leading our startup developer ecosystem strategy and programs in the United States, these goals very much overlap with my own. Building a strong ecosystem starts with creating accessible programs for founders, facilitating opportunities for exposure and representation of founders who have traditionally been underserved, and building healthy and diverse communities of founders and startup developers across the region.
Why is it more important now than ever to support Black founders and particularly Black women founders?
It has ALWAYS been important to support black women founders. Black founders and women founders have always been underfunded and underserved - and, thus, underrepresented - around the world. Black women, who live at this intersection, have admittedly had it harder than any marginalized group with respect to starting companies. Yet time and time again - from the days of Madame C.J. Walker and Annie Malone - we have seen that black women are phenomenal leaders and scrappy entrepreneurs. Investing in Black women is not just about an opportunity for founders; investing in black women is also about an incredibly untapped opportunity for investors.
How will Google for Startups Accelerators help level the playing field?
The upcoming Google for Startups Accelerator for Black Founders and Google for Startups Accelerator for Women Founders are just two small parts of the work we have done and hope to do even more moving forward for underrepresented founders. However, what makes these programs unique is their heavy emphasis on technical leadership and growing technically-sound companies. Access to technical mentorship and support remains a gap for underrepresented founders in the U.S. We want to change that narrative, and Google is well-positioned to do. Google is known for its technical excellence, and this is what we hope to pass along to founders in these two programs.
How will Google leverage its technical expertise and global network to support underrepresented founders?
In our Google for Startups Accelerator programs, we bring the best of Google's people, products, and technology directly to our founders. These 10-week programs composed of labs led by internal and external experts on product and design, technical infrastructure, growth, and leadership. In addition to labs, founders will have numerous 1:1 dedicated mentors to support them in every aspect of their business. Most importantly, founders in our Accelerators will join a community of peers, alumni, and professional allies around the globe. The support from Google does not end with the Accelerator; the Accelerator is simply the beginning of the journey with us.
Why is access to education and social capital equally important as financial capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs?
As we witness time and time again, relationships, allies, and support from a strong community are at the center of any success story. While funding is incredibly important, and creating access to capital is imperative for both of these founder communities, it doesn't stop there. Black founders and women founders need allyship. They need champions within the ecosystem. And, of course, they also need access to the same tools and support programs afforded to their peers from heavily resourced communities.
What are some other initiatives you have to support the Black and Women founder communities?
Google continues to support a number of programs for both Black and women founders. Some recently launched programs include the $175 million economic opportunity package announced by Google's CEO to support Black business owners, startup founders, job seekers, and developers announced last week. For the women community, we have also recently launched a virtual Residency program and a 12-week immersion program that provide skill-building and mentorship for women founders in Europe, and a web series "Founded" from Google's Women Techmakers focused on highlighting women entrepreneurs solving some of the world's most pressing challenges. These are just a select few of the many initiatives Google has launched for these communities, and I'm very excited to see many more in the pipeline.
Historically programs that are open to all women don’t have the best representation of Black women. What is your approach to ensuring that there is representation of gender and ethnicity/race across both programs?
Representation matters in both programs... just as it is important to have strong representation of gender, geography, and background in the program for black founders, it is equally important to have representation within the women’s program - including black women. We are excited to partner with organizations around the country supporting black women founders - like BGV - to ensure as much representation as possible within our pool of applicants. We also ensure that we have the same levels of representation in our program selection board - the team that decides which founders will be selected to participate in the program.
Black Girl Ventures is thankful for Google's continued support as we continue on this mission to provide access to capital for Black and Brown women founders.