There’s a belief among most investors and startup founders that the financial ecosystem is a meritocracy. Money tends to flow to the companies with the best ideas, talent, products, and/or services. Whether or not this is true the fact remains that vast majority of startup founders, and the investors that fund them, are white men.
As a local “hapa” woman from Hawaii, meaning Asian/Caucasian mixed race, I assumed the investment world was not an industry that I would ever be connected with. When I ran across the Bay Area Capital Connections Conference (BACC) series I was curious enough to attend. This conference series was launched in 2006 by a non-profit organization called the Alliance for Community Development of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Alliance for Community Development (ACD) created this annual conference to ensure that diverse entrepreneurs and venture fundable companies led by diverse entrepreneurs were visible to the investment community. The first conference, in 2006, took place in San Francisco presenting African American founders and their companies.
In 2007 I attended the second Bay Area Capital Connections Conference in San Jose, CA which focused on presenting Latino/Latina founders and their companies. This was the first business event I had seen that connected diverse entrepreneurs to private investment, the most powerful business growth engine in the world. I wondered if and how the social/cultural prospective of diverse entrepreneurs would appear in the design of the companies. Seeing Latino entrepreneurs presenting companies with IT services, which connected the communities they came from in Mexico to their lives in the U.S., illustrated the power of technology when combined with a multicultural perspective.
One year later I attended a conference in Mountain View, CA that featured Asian Founders and their companies. It was a powerful experience to see people like myself presenting –much more powerful than I expected. I loved the range of companies presented by Asian founders, from pet food products to complex medical technologies. But most of all I was thrilled to see the support and enthusiasm of the audience for the talent and quality of the business presentations. It was the first time I thought perhaps I would engage with the investment community.
I stayed in touch with the founders of the conference and now, as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Development, I am organizing the conferences. The Bay Area Capital Connections Conference is still one of the few events to ensure that companies with diverse founders continue to have public visibility and connections with the investment community. It is also an important platform to present relevant role models for the growing numbers of younger, diverse entrepreneurs across the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in Oakland and the East Bay.
The cultural and ethnic diversity driven by the shift in demographics across the US is one of the most powerful forces in marketing and innovation today. Generation Z, or The “Plurals,” currently 5 –15 years old, are the most multi-cultural and multiracial generation to date. They and their families are already being targeted in TV, online, and print advertising because the leading companies understand their growing importance and purchasing power. As I recruit entrepreneurs to present at this year’s conference, I am seeing more companies who are pursuing the big opportunities of a productive multicultural economy.
I believe creating a more inclusive economy is an engine for driving sustained economic growth. That’s why this year’s conference theme is “Investing in an Inclusive Economy.” Of course, the conference welcomes all investors and entrepreneurs to participate. However, I believe it is necessary to place a spotlight on the talent and the quality of companies led by diverse entrepreneurs. Our goal is to increase their visibility among the investment, business, and entrepreneurial communities, and tap the invaluable power of peer role models to motivate other diverse entrepreneurs to persist in developing their own ventures.
I continue to be impressed by the innovative ideas and the sustained, persistent efforts of young companies with diverse leadership. These are leading edge entrepreneurs who need financing yes, but to scale a business they also need professional advisors, interns, programmers, media attention, and a supportive business community so they can move past the bootstrapping stage. With support and funding, these startups can be the next major contributors to economic growth.
I invite you to join me at the Bay Area Capital Connections Conference Six (BACC6): “Investing in an Inclusive Economy” as we move toward a more inclusive and productive economic future. The Conference will take place on October 3, 2013 in Oakland, CA, one of the most diverse cities in the US. Come learn what others are doing to create a more inclusive economy and network with the people who are making it happen.
About the Bay Area Capital Connections Conference
The Bay Area Capital Connections Conference Six: Investing in an Inclusive Economy takes place on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at the Kaiser Auditorium and Lakeside Theater in Oakland, CA. For more information about the Conference, or to register for this event, please visit the event Web page on Eventbrite: https://bayareacapitalconnections6.eventbrite.com/
About the Alliance for Community Development
The Alliance for Community Development is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization with the mission of increasing access to capital for companies with diverse leadership. The Alliance serves startup founders and business owners by providing expert business knowledge, growth strategies, and connections to financial and other resources through dynamic forums, conferences and programs. We welcome all entrepreneurs, financial professionals, and business community to our programs.
For more information about the Alliance for Community Development, please visit our website: http://www.allianceforcommunitydevelopment.com
Editor’s Note: This piece is paid content to support a marketing partner and is not a reported story from Oakland Local.