According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, minorities are becoming more educated in the United States. These findings indicate that black women have become the most educated group in the United States earning 68% of all associate’s degrees, 66% of all bachelor’s degrees, 71% of all master’s degrees and 65% of all doctorate degrees awarded to black students between 2009 and 2010.
More black women were enrolled in college than any other group and the number of black and Hispanic students enrolled in college has risen overall. While many industries are benefiting from the influx of minority applicants and the unique skills they bring to the table, many more are still disturbingly disproportionate.
In fact, when it comes to companies like venture capital firms, black investors account for 2% of the investment team and 1% of them are Latinx according to the National Venture Capital Association.
Studies done to determine the lack of diversity in industries with similarly small percentages determined that both lack of networking and workplace discrimination can have a significant impact on who applies for, trains for and stays in these career roles.
For many, particularly from underserved neighborhoods, the option to go into venture capital never presented itself. These statistics are not only unfortunate for brilliant minds who get shut out from showcasing their talent but it means that businesses miss out on the chance to encounter unique talents and assets.
So what’s being done to change things around? The San Fransisco-based startup, HBCU.vc is hoping to offer black and brown innovators and investors the support they deserve.
How does it work? HBCU.vc offers three levels of support to students around the country to help them with their dreams of becoming tech innovators and investors. Their remote-based program was created to facilitate the education of underserved communities about venture capital and to provide them with the support and assistance they need.
Besides workplace discrimination, another factor that makes it less likely for some from underserved communities and minority backgrounds to be "noticed" is lack of networking. The phrase "it’s not what you know, it’s who you know" couldn’t be truer here, as most investors, like most employers, will identify people in their network before looking outside to invite people for opportunities. Thus, networking is a key component of their program.
Students attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are free to apply for the year-long program. They will be paired with investment partners and taught the fundamentals of venture capital and entrepreneurship. Students are then encouraged to act as investors and fund local entrepreneurs and startups around campus.
In this way student not only get real-world experience, they get to apply what they are learning, build a network of local contacts and give back to their community. Student themselves learn to identify investment opportunities, do market research and make decisions on which startups and entrepreneurs to fund. So what are the three levels of support HBCU.vc provides?
The first is their Student Investor Fellowship, in which students are prepared for their careers as investors by gaining hands-on experience. Students have so far interned with Cross Culture VC, Indie.vc and Kapor capital, all companies that HBCU.vc is affiliated with. Secondly, each student has access to startup funding through partnerships with various investment firms.
Lastly, students can attend online courses in entrepreneurship and venture capital. These courses help them gain some of the hard skills they will need on the job, whether they are preparing to launch their own startup or preparing to become future tech investors.
Their students are not limited to a particular field of study, in fact, the students featured on their website are from a variety of backgrounds. Just a few of the fields of study for their student innovators include physics, business administration, music business, agriculture, accounting and electrical engineering.
The community mentors, who are all people of color themselves come from a variety of backgrounds and companies as well, allowing them to share their expertise from their years of experience and also the frustrations and surprises of what it’s like to be one of very few in their industry.
Ideas for startups like HBCU.vc don’t come out of thin air, they’re created by talented people with a dream and a vision but unfortunately, they’re also the result of a societal deficiency. We may not always be able to control the circumstances under which we find ourselves but that doesn’t mean we give up. Sometimes if there’s not a road, you have to make one.