One exercise we like to run with our portfolio founders while navigating the tactical work of building an inclusive company is to simply ask them to open up their Linkedin’s and look at their network. More often than not, their network is a reflection of them and their life circumstances – i.e. the people in their network look just like them in terms of race, background and socioeconomic status. So, if 77% of venture backed startup founders are white and over 80% percent of jobs are filled through a personal network, then there’s no question why the tech ecosystem looks the way it does.
Many founder’s don’t consider the lasting implications of their first few hires. Which is why as an early stage venture capital firm we believe that educating our founders on these items is one of the most important steps we can take to help shift the landscape of Venture Capital from our little corner of the world. We’re doing this in 5 ways:
1. A Founder’s Equity Resource Manual
The first step we’ve taken towards this goal is we’ve created a Founder’s Equity Resource Manual. This is a living document that is updated frequently and takes founders through a journey from ally in thought to an ally in action. For example, we explain how to break down implicit biases, how to create a diverse hiring plan and marketing plan, and how to lead a diverse team during difficult and culturally sensitive times, among other topics.
2. External Founder Resources
Since we only invest in ~60 founding teams every year, we are also building a resource page on our website for founders outside of our portfolio that will hopefully guide them to spaces they should consider to get support as an underrepresented founder or to the information they need to start breaking down biases.
3. Diversify Our Mentor Network
We are also actively working to diversify our portfolio mentors. Here at Forum Ventures, we have an awesome community of operators that volunteer to mentor our companies. We are expanding this community so that it better reflects the world we live in moving forward.
4. Add Diverse Perspectives To Our Program Content
Furthermore, we’ve reviewed our accelerator program content and have eliminated any unconscious biases and we are adding relevant diverse perspectives – whether it be from our mentors or in our content week to week.
5. Founder Resource Groups
And finally, along with our resource manual and our work within the portfolio, we have created founder resource groups as a safe space for founders to (1) build community with people of similar backgrounds, (2) receive specialized content, mentorship, and events, and (3) hold educational discussions with other founders who need advice and/or to hear different perspectives.
As we state with every update, this is just the beginning. We are still building, iterating, and reiterating and we are both dedicated and excited about this process and the journey it has taken us on.
If you have any questions about our diversity and inclusion efforts, we'd be happy to answer them. Send email@example.com an email.