Event Brings Powerhouse Panel Together To Discuss Racial Equity For Startups – Crunchbase News

There has been a decent amount of talk about pausing and reflecting on what Juneteenth means for us individually and also as members of the startup and VC community.

And while we don’t usually cover events at Crunchbase News, after visiting with Juneteenth 4.0 organizer Rodney Sampson, we wanted to call attention to one resource worth checking out today.

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Beginning at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST, you can attend Juneteenth 4.0, an online panel via Opportunity Hub’s YouTube channel. Tickets cost around $20. The goal is to bring together Black technology ecosystem builders and white allies who are committed to creating racial equity throughout the technology, startup and venture ecosystems.

Prior to the event, we spoke with Sampson who doubles as a venture partner at Draper Goren Holm and founder/CEO of Atlanta-based Opportunity Hub (OHUB).

OHUB is a future of work, opportunity and wealth-creating platform focused on supporting—from the ground up—the path toward equitable and inclusive entrepreneurship for Black Americans.

When I spoke with Sampson last week to get his perspective on diversity and inclusion in venture capital, he explained the difference between inclusion and equity.

As an example, he said, if you’re invited to a dance, inclusion would be helping to select the music that is played, while equity is being part of the group that receives a portion of the cover charge taken at the door.

“If you want to create equity, and what it means to truly level the playing field, we have to shift exponential wealth to Black communities so that we can get skilled, trained, hired and startups funded,” Sampson said. “Now, in America, we finally have the opportunity to do something about it.”

He also cited a 2019 Harlem Capital study showing only 200 diverse founders had raised $1 million or more, ever.

“Think about it—that’s not even a Black or Brown founder a month for 20 years,” he added. “Data globally shows that more than 32,000 firms raised venture capital last year.”

In addition to talking about venture capital, he introduced me to the Juneteenth 4.0 event, which aims to highlight the opportunity to focus billions of dollars toward legitimate Black companies right now.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. However, over 150 years later, Black Americans are still fighting for freedom from racism, police brutality and poverty, which is why OHUB joined forces with The Plug and Living Cities to commemorate Juneteenth and discuss building entrepreneurship opportunities, Sampson said.

This month, not only are companies recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, they are pledging millions in funding to help Black entrepreneurs, including many we have covered such as SoftBank and Collab Capital, as well as this in-depth look at some of the companies that have received funding.

A preview of Juneteenth 4.0’s panelists

Sherrell Dorsey

Sherrell Dorsey is a data journalist and founder of The Plug, which provides in-depth reporting and analysis on the Black innovation economy. She also runs BLKTECH Interactive, North Carolina’s first hub supporting more than 2,000 Black entrepreneurs and technologists.

She is slated to discuss data collection and reporting, as well as how to serve people trying to build companies, how to help them get into technology or related industries, and how to hire more inclusively to ensure a talent pipeline is there.

In discussing where the pipeline might break down, she explained that people are comfortable hiring people who are like them or even go to the same schools. In addition, people may be biased when starting a company and hiring employees.

“Hiring managers and recruiters should consider if they are recruiting at a diverse group of schools, not just at Harvard and Stanford, but also at community colleges, knowing that talent can come from anyone and anywhere,” Dorsey said.

She also pointed to networks.

“Networks are also important to work with people who can help introduce you to good talent. We have to ask how we can leverage those to our advantage. I want people attending to get excited, so that when we get on the other side of this [COVID-19] pandemic, we know we have done something in the world to increase racial equality for folks and help those who haven’t had the opportunity before,” she said.

Jeffrey Groeber

Jeffrey Groeber is founder and CEO of New York-based Leif, a technology platform that enables the creation, payment management and financing of Income Share Agreements to remove barriers to education accessibility. ISAs allows students to receive education at no upfront cost from their university and, in exchange, the student agrees to pay a portion of their post-graduate income back to the university for a period of time.

Groeber said he is looking forward to supporting the work that OHUB has done and will continue to do, which, along with Momentum Learning, partnered with Leif to launch an ISA program at Morehouse College.

“Our aim is to promote the benefits of skills-based training provided by OHUB and the importance of incentive-alignment between schools and their students,” Grober said via email. “Their coding bootcamp provides students with the necessary software engineering skills to succeed in today’s digital economy, while the ISA ensures students only pay for their education after they have successfully obtained a post-grad career. We believe this increased access to education is incredibly important in an environment where Black communities are disproportionately impacted by the burdens of student debt.”

Rod Robinson

Meanwhile, Rod Robinson, vice president of supplier inclusion and sustainability at San Mateo, California-based Coupa, told me he was invited to speak about his company’s recent exit. Coupa acquired Robinson’s 10-year-old supplier chain software company, ConnXus, in May.

It’s time to pause and shed more light and visibility on racial division and social inequality, he said. One way is to support economic opportunity for people of color by having more entrepreneurs–who are experienced in taking a company from startup to exit–provide capital, expertise and insight to the next generation.

“I’m hoping everyone walks away with renewed vigor to continue to build on this momentum that was started,” Robinson said. “It gives me hope seeing white, Black and Brown people fighting together. I’ve never seen such unison around this issue. The next generation gives me hope, and I feel honored to be in a position where I can be part of the solution and support different causes fighting to eliminate the inequality that exists.”

Event reminder:

What: Juneteenth 4.0 hosted by OHUB, The Plug and Living Cities
Where: Online via Juneteenth 4.0
When: Today – 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST
Cost: $18.65 + $2.76 fee

Illustration: Dom Guzman