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BUILDING AN #EQUALSYSTEM FOR DIVERSE ENTREPRENEURS

What if we women, people of colour and those who identify as LGBTQIA, stopped fighting so hard against a system that’s so deeply stacked against us, and started our own system. What then?

It’s interesting how we talk about exclusion in terms of gaps (gender pay gap, funding gap), as if there’s plenty of space available there for us under-represented folk, if we would just step up more.

There’s a lot of advice for us too. Telling us we need to be more confident, more assertive — we need to be empowered before we can expect to get the same deal.

Those of us who shoehorn our way upwards, sidestepping the ~ism, smoothing out our ambition so it be more palatable, always dancing between too much and not enough. We push hard. We pull others up alongside us. And for what? We get to talk about being “[women/black/gay] in [our industry].” We get passed over for the top jobs. We find the air up there so toxic that we leave in droves. And the status quo keeps on status quo-ing.

Cindy Gallop talks about the “closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys.” YUP. When straight white male is the default factory setting, no amount of leaning in is going to flip the lens.

It no longer makes sense to keep pushing for incremental changes in a busted system. I’d far rather put my energies and my intellect into creating a new system. One that is by us, for us. Our own loop. After all, that model has been incredibly successful for white guys.

The #EqualSystem

The EqualSystem is my take on the standard start-up ecosystem. A deliberate, focused, structure that gives diverse founders a route to capital, to customers and to media.

Capital

It starts and ends with the money. We need our own sources of venture capital, ring-fenced to fund our founders and businesses that serve our markets. I’m putting a list together of angels and VCs in the UK and US and I’ll share it here. There are some great people doing some great things — from Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital to Karen Cahn at iFundWomen.

Still, we need more money. Much more money. So we need to make it easy for those of us who have done well financially to invest. We need to publicly praise big-time investors with diverse portfolios. We need to make diverse investing A. Thing.

Influencers

I see you. Fighting the good fight on Twitter. Delivering knock-out lines on prime time. Delivering brilliant, thoughtful opinion pieces. But so much of your time is lost responding to the relentless, energy-sapping shit-tide of cretins.

So, what if we collectively ignored the baiting and the trolls and used our considerable influence to direct attention to the good stuff. To relentlessly promote our businesses, report on investment we’ve raised and products we’ve launched, and champion our game-changing founders.

We have existing great channels and new ones launching all the time. So how do we focus the lens to provide more exposure to our businesses and bring them into the public consciousness?

Consumers

We consumers (and I include those buying business products and services too) have a helluva job to do. We have vast spending power, but we don’t direct it well. We need to actively put our money where our values are and support businesses founded by our people or serving our markets.

To be able to reward diversity with dollars, we have to know who’s doing it right. That’s where the influencers come in — we need to be signposted to the goods and then we need to make a conscious and repeat decision to back those businesses leading the way. Just as importantly, we need to take our money away from companies that show how little they care for us.

Accelerators

There are some fantastic programmes out there for diverse founders. We’re working on a list and we’ll post it on here soon.

Mentorship and peer-review are great. But they are the essentials. I’d like to see it ratcheted up a couple of levels, so we add a clear funding stream and media support for founders exiting these accelerators. Giving them better access to capital, talent and buyers.

Founders

We want to support founders who want to play big. Who are building industry-changing businesses. Who care deeply about and want to solve our problems.

Being a founder is really, bloody hard. Imagine how much easier it would feel knowing that you had the support of the full EqualSystem — the slipstream from accelerator to funding, via press accolades to a waiting audience, primed to buy your product.

That’s what it feels like if you’re a guy starting up, knowing that 95% of all VC funding last year went to male-led startups.

Help us map the EqualSystem

So if you’re tired of the scraps and the shit-tide and the shoe-horning…

Please tweet us @forwardfounders where you fit in the new #EqualSystem: Are you a #Founder, #Accelerator, #Consumer, #Influencer, #Capital.

Author: Caroline Hughes @cazaraghi / https://www.linkedin.com/in/caroline-hughes-46494915/

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CEO, Lifetise | Feminist FinTech | How to afford your life goals🏠👩‍👧‍👧🏖 | Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab 2019 | Women in FinTech Powerlist | 🎙Money & Me

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