White Paper: Accelerating Diversity – Building Stronger Founder Ecosystems
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The U.S. and European tech industries fail to represent the societies they serve and operate in. These inequities span every stage of a founder’s journey. From navigating opaque information networks on how to build start-ups most effectively to securing the financing to scale businesses, the entire tech ecosystem has a duty and an opportunity to drive tangible change to rectify the imbalances.
Accelerators, as an early gateway into the ecosystem, have the opportunity to augment their practices to ensure that they proactively attract and empower founders. Founders Intelligence, the strategy and innovation arm of Founders Forum, had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the Emerge program by SoftBank Vision Fund and WeWork Labs, an accelerator dedicated to connecting underrepresented founders with the tools and networks to help them scale, as part of the work that underpins this whitepaper. Their work and those of the many others we connected with in the ecosystem highlights the unique role accelerators can play in supporting founders in light of systemic challenges.
In order to drive sustainable impact, accelerators need to:
1. Proactively source underrepresented founders – removing the dependency on often
biased and unreliable signals, breaking down the barriers to allow founders to commit
full-time, and building trust among underrepresented founders is a critical first step.
2. Help diverse founders ‘break into the club’ – once founders join an accelerator program, strengthen the peer-to-peer networks so that they outlive the duration of the program. Empower founders with social capital through deep, meaningful connections that convert into anchor clients and early-stage investments.
3. Support in financing the gap – take bold action to ensure that every decision is based on scientific and transparent processes and that the investment teams better reflect the
world they operate in through clear public commitments and OKRs.
Only through bold and collective action can the ecosystem begin to eliminate a culture of
systemic exclusion – one that has failed founders by exacerbating societal inequities and which is preventing investors achieving their full potential. The industry imperative is to cultivate a pipeline that supports opportunity for these founders through every stage of the investment lifecycle, creating a new set of sector champions and role models for the future.