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Building Equity In Startup Communities | SXSW 2021

Brad Feld
Managing Director at Foundry Group
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SXSW 2021
March 16, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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Building Equity In Startup Communities | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Brad Feld
Managing Director at Foundry Group
Rodney Sampson
Chairman & CEO at Opportunity Hub
Dominic Madori Davis
Reporter at Business Insider

Brad has been an early-stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars.Brad is a writer and speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship. He’s written a number of books as part of the Startup Revolution series and writes the blog Feld Thoughts.Brad holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Management Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brad is also an art collector and long-distance runner. He has completed 25 marathons as part of his mission to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states.

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Rodney Sampson is heralded as the leading inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem builder in the world, particularly given his mission to ensure that everyone, everywhere, particularly socially disadvantaged communities, have equitable access to the new multi-generational wealth creation opportunities afforded in the future of work and fourth industrial revolution as definitive paths to reducing poverty and the racial wealth gap everywhere.Throughout his twenty year entrepreneurial career, Sampson has cofounded startup companies that have overcome the odds by collectively raising more than $20 million in angel and venture capital, created hundreds of new jobs and generated tens of millions in revenue before acquisition or going public.

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Journalist at Business Insider that reports on young entrepreneurs (gen zers and millennials).

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About the talk

Brad Feld, co-founder of Foundry Group and Techstars, is one of the original leaders around building startup communities. In his own right, Rodney Sampson, co-founder of 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund and Opportunity Hub is considered the father of building inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems in communities of color. Together, these two pioneering leaders are joining forces to scale equity throughout the technology, startup and venture ecosystem to ensure a path to shared prosperity for Black, Latinx and Indigenous People of Color in the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. Brad & Rodney will discuss their strategies for operationalizing diversity, equity & inclusion in the ecosystem in this featured session.

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SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. An essential destination for global professionals, this year’s online event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. For more information, please visit sxsw.com.

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Hi, everyone and welcome to. So let's dive in. The first question is for both of you, come here, Wow. Well, first of all, I'm excited to be back at South by Southwest on-line and how you feeling today? Dumb, I'm good. I'm getting ready to go. Get up. I can see you out cuz I could ground myself and process really bad that question because I can tell you just get a whirlwind. It's been a blur. And I want to say that, I wrote a post bad guy must have been April. Maybe, you know, after jumping off the

George, Floyd out there, Ahmad Aubrey. Brianna Taylor, and I wrote up a sub Stack-On, you know, when your stylist is complete and Brad, Pitt me a simple. No. Electric said I got time talent and treasure. Let's talk. And that's how I relationship dumped off last year. And he and I Do conversations and, you know, from there. I think we both agree that the pledge was a starting point for this work, and I apologize there for Nebraska. Another bottle on so many things that

I approach has. I just approached them as as startups, and when you're starting something you decide that, you know, a lot or you don't. And from my perspective, in many cases, when I show up somewhere, it's, it's a might have a beauty and I have some perspective, but I don't actually really know much about what's going on in here. Specifically, around racial Equity was George. Floyd murdered. I use the metaphor for myself that I have used in 2005 around gender equity

and specifically. I got involved in gender equity in 2005 as a woman and Lucy Sanders approached me about getting more girls and women and that was in well before I can. In years ago, the imbalance on the gender Equity front was very obvious. and I thought I had some sense of Dynamics around gender Equity, because my parents are equals in their marriage, and my wife, Amy and I are I found within three months of starting to work with Lucy as the founding chair of events That We're

Men showed up. It was usually white man, at the gender Equity discussion at best. They were neutral what they said and did and most the time they were her phone on and started shifted. My whole mind sense. If you know what, I don't know anything and I'm going to be involved be engaged and as part of that, not make assumptions that I know anyting about what is actually both going on. And what can be effective and helpful. When George Bush got married, I used to take 3 months to figure it out. I realize that while I had with Amy throw, our son Tropic activity, has been a

significant contributors to self, adjust the sex. If he's going back, twenty years I was a passive participant in a limiting races in America. And I look at myself and I'm like, no that's not acceptable to be going for that sound, okay? And I don't have any idea what I should be doing to shift from passing to act. But what I do know is the same metaphor in the case of and see what the language became male advocate in gender Equity, I can apply here, which is I can be an advocate, or an ally, or an accomplice, whatever like to Ennis, part of that I have these resources

that Robbie talked about which is, which is a Time network and money. And I've been amazed at the question was, what's changed in the last six months, six months ago or eight months ago? I mean, I had a relatively small number of what I would consider to be close black friends and I wouldn't have counted Rodney Anatomy, we interacted Maybe by email a few times, but not a lot in that. I just showed up with a number of them and said, how can I get involved in things? You're doing to support you? What happened in against six, seven eight months is

the number of people that I'm now working with and supporting and helping. And the things I'm learning about what I can do to be an active participant, or an accomplice, in eliminating racism in America, and improving the racial Equity Dynamics impact Are very substantiv and they're driven through that experience rather than some preconceived notion I had. And I like what I'm seeing. As different as many many, many more people who could be again, allies topless whatever language we

want to use our showing up that way and verse is either being passive or showing up like, well, this is what we should do. This isn't the problem her, you know, here, let me do this to try to solve a problem that I'm not actually my own lipstick. So I'll just end with Rodney, has been a tremendous friend for me in this experience because he didn't have to invest his time in a person like me, the one of the powerful things is the feedback loop. It's not just, you know, me extending resources to Rob. It's

Rodney, including an engaging me in everything he's doing And that then be coming over with the same philosophy. When using start up to try to take a 20-year view that same philosophy plays out for a very long time. So I don't know if that's consistent with how you feel about the last six, seven, eight months. Even besides being back there, Dom is, you know, what you think about the startup Community, America drill down to hyper, local cities. You know, I want to look at my

work in, you know, decades at a time. And I think about going back yuno, 20 plus years ago, being the founder of, you know, if extremely company back. Then, it was eventually acquired not knowing that 20 years later, you wouldn't be able to, actually, literally engage without streaming. You know, there was a used case for Calamity, but we didn't know it would be Damn it. And then, halfway through got a little burnt out, you know, how a company building, and also be burnt out of being, like, the only black person invented size black man, in these

rules. I got tired of being out life and what attracted me was reading some of the earlier work of Brad, a round building startup Community with what I call the Daymond John philosophy, Google for us by us and and jump with with with diamond. He's a he's a stupid to your friend about how you do owe her. Have been building or we started building this for us by us. Start a community initiative Atlanta and then other folks come to Atlanta. Next thing you know Miami is jumping off and Nashville and Memphis and social coming and watching. Are you talking about work? And then when we

realize that there was really a giant to building these ecosystems, but the next 10 years of that work until last year, it was still sort of us a few outliers engaged. And so, since Brad, and I really join forces on the few things. I'm starting to see some structural reimagining of what start of community could look like if diversity equity, and inclusion built into the framework for the actual Playbook. And so the back takes time, right? Because he's a fast-moving entity, fast-moving constructs and

to get it to like slow down and to reimagine itself is hard. Because that fast-moving is tied to people's existing livelihood. We got Capital to get out of the door, we got programs the Run, we got Founders to accelerate, its Founders have companies to run. So if you can imagine, you know, it took last year to get people to lie, slowed, down enough to look and then we put them in, like, in the incubation. Of what I believe is this next stage of equity in startups community. And I think this year,

and I'm talking more about, you know, I think last year was a year of. What can we do fast to make sure that we don't find ourselves on the other side of History. So you saw a lot of commitment, a lot of hashtags, a lot of you know, nicely written letters, but then he saw a lot of black fund managers, raise a lot of of of capital. And you saw Founders, black Founders closing their Steve rounds, you know, and in In this unheard-of time frames, but I think the next

phase is the structural face when we actually have to rebuild the ecosystems. And it's probably going to take a little bit longer to see the output of that. So that eventually we normalize black Founders, closing speed round. And you know, close if I manage is closing around the company being choir, it just becomes a thing that I owe you another company. Okay, great, you know, it's not news anymore with not headline news. So that's a reflection of what I really starting to take form and shape going into 2021.

And I do think that, The pandemic, plus the race. Reckoning, created a special moment in history that without either them. We wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Since you both are kind of coming into this issue, like in different times and parts in your lives. What are some of the biggest issues you've seen marginalized startup communities face and which one which of those problems? Do you think that the race Reckoning and like the black lives matter of, you know, Fallout rule actually sick?

I have kind of a horizontal view of that question, which is The startup communities. If you use a geographical and one of the challenges that exist using sort of racial Equity as perspective, is that many situations where you have a geographic sort of needy, it does not give yourself in a way where it's not supposed to you in a way to be inclusive of all the participants and this was a thesis apply or principle of mine. From the very first, is you have to be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage in the first ever.

There's a very powerful elements of that which I'll just use the one example of it. Where Just because you stay you and it's not even know example of this music from, from where I live in Boulder Colorado is the town of Jason to Boulder is Longmont. Longmont is a folder is probably 95% White. Older is Prader Longmont is probably 60, 70% white and it's probably 25% of the characteristics of the community. If you talk to a Hispanic entrepreneur in Longmont, if they look it, turned out that wall of your there's

inclusivity that person would say. It's a 42 year old single mother of two who is starting her business and also running in a working for somebody to make money, to take care of her kids, she can't get in the car and drive 30 minutes to Boulder. And then even when everybody says oh, it's awesome, you're here. She looks like look like me. They're not dealing with the same issues, I'm dealing with. I meant shouldn't have a couple hours to spend it in when everybody goes out afterwards to, whatever the after party is, she's got to go back home the 30 minutes. It's backwards

really what should be going on if you want to be used to visit those Boulder. Entrepreneur should go to things in Longmont, should go participate with her and her peers and the Workforce Development helped, amplify of Lake, those networks together. Not being bashful. That was wrong for not being a feeling good about the idea but then recognizing that the inclusive community that you're creating is actually not because you're asking people to come to you

rather than you go to that. Last time it's Ronnie's Point, all these things take a while. So Because entrepreneurship and especially Tech entrepreneurship has generated a very significant wealth at time of extraordinary and equity. What are the powerful things that people in startup communities to a generator? Wild can do is focus some of their energy on In the cities, in the regions, in the places, they live earnings, a used horizontal turn sideways, their frame of reference in terms of weird they're investing time and

energy in the next wave of Entrepreneurship by going to communities. That are more diverse or there, whatever language you use, in terms of marginalized, I don't think it has to be literally trying to extend the aperture so that many more people have access to Startup community and entrepreneurial activity. What are the benefits in the rewards that many people have read enough? I can come to me. If I don't, I'm going to do in cochranton in the I said, hey, I'll go to you and then I'm sorry for the long story, but that's the

point. So as we look at remote were working from home, you know, that having this continues to, possibly increase racial equity and some starter, or a different company than General Store first. Cuz Rodney has a longer in for my quick answer is. Yes, absolutely. Like, the amount of time that I've spent working. Just with Ronnie, what was a number of other friends around the issue and my see, France, I mean black Brethren around the Dynamics of racial equity in the last

6 months has been ten times. The amount of time I would have spent, if I was geographically focused and the idea of going to places and being a place. And so I think it is a very powerful accelerant. It's not the it's not a solution. But it lowers the friction of the engagement interesting because when I when I came along raising capital and as if, you know, until last year was always, you know, you have a good call with the investor and it like will pay, you know, let me know the next time you'll be in the area and most you know into it fun fundraisers

know what is a fund manager of founder Worth to say, Will by the way, I'll have to be there next week. Like, you knew what you had to do to actually get get a meeting because other than that it may not be a call for you to come to the area and so that can be restricted. You don't want to fly you know, if you are early stage founder and you you know, we won't regard, you take the income gaps in the wealth Gap, but you got to have an ability to ask. Get to the money and get to the program on what if you live in a market where that's not, you know, an active Prius elevator or

decelerate or text Hub or find? You got to get there. So when you layer geography on top of race, you, you double down some there, but last year we saw Raven seed, round from the conference at their home. Hopefully Sheltering safely. I'm in place, we saw people your customer acquisition with more efficient. You didn't have to get in front of people. We saw people completing virtual accelerators and intimidate, you know. Even at accelerators like my texts aren't. I mean, we had last year over to do. 50 black and brown

folks that actually went to a rapid resealing immersive boot camp and you know I think of one of our student-athletes just finished a techstars accelerator but last year he was living in Beaumont Texas. And he moved to Dallas to go through one of my boot camp with a friend. The boot camp instructors were in Raleigh-Durham. It was through a program in Atlanta at Morehouse. He graduated got an internship in Raleigh-Durham. Then got a full-time gig and DC making like 90 K, and then ended up becoming a co-founder of a check star bad company and he's never left

Dallas the whole time. So when you talk about the death of Justin, no supposed to like it's going to open back up. I'm like, please don't open back up the Way it did we cannot go back to that. We have two lever that because if we go strictly back to the old rules of like, hey, you know, when can you get to Boulder when can you get to Atlanta, which can you get to Austin? We're going to turn back time and so we're going to have to figure out how to keep this Engine moving forward. And I do think hyper-local Innovation ecosystems

inequity District which is no. By the way, the name of the new podcast but we're going to see these type of local. But yet Global connected ecosystems come online. Yeah. So what are your thoughts on? Kind of? Let me know what he likes to use the word for what kind of forcing companies in a sense to implement measures like this? I mean, like what are your thoughts on like setting benchmarks and criterias for companies that are looking more like saying, you know, maybe a board member of this, many people has to be fimalar by POC. What kind of

exercise? Taking a very specific approach personally, which is, I am on board, and I went to all the board, very simple. I'm just not interested in being important. And so I want to make I want every one of our boys to follow up with a Ouija board or weed. I smoke, and I want to get both women are on the porch. That has to be part of the mission. And I think that that is a behavioral that for a long-term, investors are embracing. If there's lots of organizations that are now helping with

that, Commander's examples. I'll just leave with one example of my partners and I found three and we made a deliberate decision made the board of that public company company or other than the CEO, who's the white male. And female are born was entirely not wifey outside board members. All three are women and look at the women that are on the board. Has one of them. That was another Easter box. The other Play the newest. Let's build a very highly functional board. That

has it built into it? Just notion of it. Not being negative bias against diversity. I think the dapa Haber from the bottom up, There has to be more people within their organizations, like him for her organization. So I can see where that are very Focus, not just on one element of diversity like Senator also very focused on the intersectionality between a gender race orientation in the context of this change and I'm hopeful that now, if there's enough bottom up activity, it will be complemented by

some top-down activity, but it will be built in Hawaii. I think that's kind of all we have time for today so I thank you too so much for the insightful conversation and thanks for all that washed online. I hope to see you all next year in person but until then stay safe and healthy everyone. Thank you. Thank you.

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Brad Feld
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