- Spectrum, an event devoted to addressing the U.S. racial wealth-gap, took place online amid a social justice movement and a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt minorities.
- Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams called for the country to support and invest in entrepreneurs of color who have struggled to access capital in the past.
- VC stakeholders spoke about unconscious bias that prevents investors from extending capital to women and minorities.
Social Capital Markets launched this year’s edition of Spectrum, an online event devoted to addressing the racial wealth-gap in the U.S., on Tuesday, amid calls for social justice following the death of George Floyd and a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected minorities.
In a key address at the event, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is seen as a potential running mate for the presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden, said the nation needs to support and invest in entrepreneurs of color.
She emphasized that social justice cannot be divorced from economic inclusion for women and minority entrepreneurs, who have historically struggled to access capital to build their businesses.
Abrams cited data that says minorities are at a higher risk of being infected by the coronavirus and are more likely to be laid-off than other Americans. Meanwhile, Black-owned businesses are more likely to have entered COVID-induced lockdowns with smaller cash reserves due to discrimination in lending.
Abrams acknowledged thousands of protesters that have taken to the streets in various American cities and around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. She vowed to bring about change.
“I promise to do all I can to ensure that every protest leads to real solutions,“ Abrams said. ”But as long as those who support injustice are in charge, nothing changes. To bring about change, we must vote. Not because voting is the only answer, but is the one we cannot afford to ignore.”
The opening salvo of the three-day event was watched by about 600 viewers, according to organizers. Several speakers from the business world echoed Abrams’ statements.
Speakers discussed plans to bridge the funding gap and get minority businesses more capital to flourish. Pamela Alexander, the director for community development for the Ford Motor Company Fund, said the philanthropic organization has invested in supporting nonprofits and social mobility projects in more than 50 countries.
Meanwhile, telecommunication giant Verizon committed itself to lobby local and federal authorities to seek criminal justice reform to help expunge certain criminal records that make it difficult for poor Americans to find gainful employment.
“We’ll sponsor a political criminal justice series,” said Michelle Arrington, a representative for Verizon’s state and local government affairs division. The company also committed $10 million to social justice organizations such as the NAACP as well as supporting service members in the U.S. military.
David Jakubowski, chief executive officer and co-founder of Silicon Valley venture firm Ureeka, said he was disgusted by his early experiences while trying to help women and minority entrepreneurs access venture capital. Jakubowski explained that when he first tried to help three women of color get money for viable businesses, investors often expressed admiration for the ventures but declined to fund the businesses unless the entrepreneurs could find another investor to take the lead in plowing money into their startups.
“My experience was shocking and frankly disgusting,” Jakubowski said. Now he has opened an investment shop focused on finding innovative ways of funding women and minority-run enterprises. He says his role is to call out investors who are letting unconscious bias stand in the way of making a good deal. “My role is to call bullshit across these things so that we can begin to actually make some progress,” he said. “I’ve lived in my very privileged Silicon Valley bubble for a long time and I took for granted all of the best practices and I’m here to help democratize that.”