Why we should bank on diverse entrepreneurs to solve big problems
In the same way the 2008 recession led to exponential growth for companies like Facebook, Groupon, Apple, and Starbucks, COVID-19 could trigger exponential growth for our entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is especially true for tech and tech-enabled businesses that often provide virtual options for the things we do everyday—scheduling meetings, hosting conference calls and video meetings, collaborating with our teams, and even food delivery.
While current solutions will weather the proverbial storm, this time is critical for entrepreneurs who will have to pivot, for aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to fill a new or exacerbated need, and for intrapreneurs who will create strategies and programs to keep their companies’ revenues in the black.
This is especially true for racially diverse entrepreneurs.
The metrics regarding why diversity is important to a company’s bottom line are clear. And despite seeing little to no uptick as it relates to both corporate America and entrepreneurship so far, these things are and still remain true.
But this is not an article on why diversity is important. What this article is about is how our organization, Be Nimble Foundation & Black Hatch Fund, is addressing the need for an increase in entrepreneurship with black tech founders, while also helping them build ideas that can scale during a recession, pandemic, or crisis.
Just a few weeks ago—before social distancing was a thing—we held a week of events that brought together more than 3,000 attendees and raised over $100,000 for black tech founders. Pitch Pardi, one of the seven events in total, highlighted eight of the best and brightest black tech startup founders in Indianapolis.
These founders pitched their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 in cash investment, along with legal, business, design, and marketing resources that will help scale their businesses. The event was sponsored by AT&T, Gutwein Law, Innovatemap, and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
The 2020 Pitch Pardi winners were:
- Grand Prize Winner: Founded by Darrian Mikell, Qualifi, is an HR solution that allows recruiters to easily record, invite and evaluate potential candidates, leading to better candidates and faster hires.
- Second Place Winner: Afterschool HQ, founded by Darye Henry and San Pathak, has a mission that aims to transform 3-6 p.m. for all students by enabling schools to partner with great after school providers in their areas.
- Third Place Winners – (Three Way Tie):
Mark Harsley founder of KITe, a web and mobile application that allows families to easily compose and share picture mail messages with their incarcerated loved ones;
The Halo App founded by Taylor Simpson, a peer to peer app that connects backers and borrowers for small-dollar loans;
and Immortal Soles, founded by Quentin Magnett, a shoe company that uses patented technology to charge your devices.
I think it’s important to highlight our winners and the events of a few weeks ago for a few reasons:
The position that there is a lack of diversity because of the ‘pipeline’ is a myth. There are plenty of innovative ideas and scalable businesses coming out of black and brown communities. We just have to want to find them, support them, and invest in them.
We have to start thinking differently about what makes a great tech company. Businesses that succeeded through the 2008 recession were not all business-to-business software-as-a-service companies. Many of them were B2C companies, using community for exponential growth, or hardware companies creating goods that make peoples’ lives easier. We have to open our perspectives if we plan to succeed through tough times.
Existing businesses must be ready to be nimble (pun partially intended) at all times. If you’re a brick and mortar operation, how do you take your business online? If you’re a service-based business, how do you create services that scale without your individual presence so you can manage your business and spend more time working on new and expanded offerings?
Lastly, we cannot allow pandemics like COVID-19 to disrupt our business strategies, we should face the challenge and use it as motivation to create more resources and opportunities.
By design (and by DNA), black innovation usually emerges from a lack of resources. My favorite example is ride-sharing. Before Uber or Lyft existed, there was a company called Dollar Vans in New York that would drive people from their homes to the train station if it was not walking distance. You’d pay a dollar, hop in a shared van and ride to your destination. Sounds just like Uberpool, right? Dollarvan was created in the 80’s out of a need in black communities. Imagine if we had-had the technology or resources to help Dollar Vans take part in the black innovation economy?
If you are a black tech founder (or looking to become one), are looking to connect with black tech founders in Central Indiana, or want to learn more about Black Hatch Fund and Be Nimble Foundation, please contact us at www.blackhatchfund.com
About Be Nimble Foundation & Black Hatch Fund
Be Nimble is a social enterprise using a quantitative and qualitative method to support the creation and growth of black tech ecosystems. Black Hatch Fund is a VC firm that invests in general market technology companies led by black founders.