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Serena Williams: Silicon Valley is wrong about Black women entrepreneurs

Monday, December 14, 2020 8:30 AM | Anonymous

My life story is one of breaking barriers and championing inclusion, on and off the court. Coming up in a predominately White male sport, I have been underestimated and underpaid throughout my career. Now, as a venture capitalist investing in early-stage startups, I see myself in the Black female founders who are often counted out right from the start.

The Black female founder begins her fundraising journey already down a match point. Black women face a unique set of challenges colored by misconceptions of both race and gender. Investors notoriously doubt female founders, typically focusing investment analysis on the potential risks and losses of female-founded startups. They often assume that women-founded companies are more likely to fail. With male-founded startups, investors take a more optimistic approach, focusing on founders' potential to capture market share and drive the accelerated growth necessary for massive financial returns. Meanwhile, Black founders contend with systemic inequity at each step of their journey. Investors expect to see more traction from Black founders than their White counterparts, and will often question their technical expertise and market understanding.

Black female founders exist at the intersection of these challenges, making it exponentially more difficult for them to get the funding they need.

And then there's the problem of the network effect.

To raise your first million, you need to raise your first check. That can be notoriously difficult. Entrepreneurs often turn to their friends and family to raise capital, a luxury reserved to those with wealthy networks willing to bet thousands of dollars on a person with a good idea.


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