For far too long Black founders have faced inequity in the venture capital (VC) world. Currently, they receive less than 1 percent of available VC funds.[1]

What’s going on? 

With 26+ years at Accenture, I lead our global Open Innovation team and I’m a member of the Accenture Ventures Investment Committee. I’ve seen firsthand the need to level the playing field for Black entrepreneurs.  

Here’s my take on some of the reasons why VC funding is so low: Investment committees lack diversity representation, which means Black founders are not being invited to funding discussions. They’re not just missing from the table…they’re not even in the building! And like so much of business, VC deals are often made based on who the funders know—who they’ve worked with, who their kids play soccer with, who they went to college with. Black entrepreneurs often lack this network. 

A year ago, I started a new role with the Accenture Ventures Open Innovation team, providing me with the opportunity to develop a global Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) program for Accenture Ventures. I&D has always been a passion and a cornerstone of my career, and I was excited to have the opportunity to make an impact.   

Answering the call to action

One of my ideas was to provide more access and opportunity to underrepresented populations through a dedicated Accenture Ventures fund. Then events in 2020 unfolded—specifically the death of George Floyd—and conversations around racial inequality reached an unprecedented level.  

I felt the urgency to act now and Accenture leadership stood with me 100 percent. That’s how my initial idea turned into a broader ongoing program with a focused fund.  

Today, Accenture launched the Black Founders Development Program—an initiative to invest in and support early-stage, Black-founded and -run technology startups. (Read press release.) 

Led by Accenture Ventures, the program will help Black business owners and leaders advance and grow their technology businesses in three ways:  

  • Strategic investments that provide greater, more direct access to venture capital for Black technology entrepreneurs, overseen by a diverse Investment Committee and influenced by a well-respected external Advisory Council of industry leaders; 
  • Community engagement that brings together the best of Accenture, our people, our partners and clients to elevate Black entrepreneurs; and 
  • Thought leadership that seeks to challenge orthodoxies in the VC community and promote greater recognition and understanding of the depth of bias, as a means for accelerating change in the industry. 

In short: We’re empowering Black entrepreneurs with a bigger voice and access to a built-in network. 

We’re applying Accenture’s vast technology, innovation and investment expertise to help Black leaders pitch their business ideas, boost their funding results and convert their good ideas into viable startups.   

We’re also supporting Black leaders through our powerful network of technology ecosystem partners and working with our growing Black Founders Development Advisory Council to share their experiences, insights and connections to help Black-founded and -run startups achieve their goals. I welcome our inaugural council members: Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks and the current chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises; and Corey E. Thomas, chairman and CEO of Rapid7, Inc.—and I look forward to introducing more members in the coming months.

Doing more to bring change

Can you feel the momentum? I certainly do. Accenture takes its role as a responsible business seriously. More than a hashtag or a slogan, our company is acting in multiple ways to fight racism, intolerance and inequity. The Black Founders Development Program is one way Accenture is fulfilling its pledge to “build a better future with the people of our communities.” 

I’m extremely proud to lead Accenture’s efforts around the Black Founders Development Program. This is an opportunity to create space at the table for Black entrepreneurs and help drive economic inclusion.  

Accenture is committed to playing a meaningful role in creating the next generation of technology entrepreneurs and innovators. Together, we can be the change.

[1] According to a study by RateMyInvestor and VC Diversity, Black founders of companies receive less than 1% of all venture capital funding, which in the U.S. alone, totaled approximately $130 billion. 

Kathryn Ross

Lead – Global Open Innovation and the Black Founders Development Program

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