In the wake of the rising Black Lives Matter movement, the Boston venture capital community has universally declared a commitment to addressing the entrepreneurial inequities in our system. Many now seek channels to put those commitments into tangible action, and that’s where BUILD comes in. BUILD is the equivalent of a pre-seed fund for under-resourced youth in Boston. It is estimated that less than 1% of all VC funding goes to Black founders, and that low percentage echoes persistent inequities in access to bank financing and government resources.
In addition to providing more funding for Black-owned businesses, the system simply doesn’t provide enough support to develop a pipeline for underrepresented founders — a compounding challenge that begins well before college.
“There are too many hurdles, too little training and too few support resources for entrepreneurs of color,” says TJ Mahony of Accomplice. This is where organizations like BUILD.org can help.
Over the past 10 years in Boston, BUILD.org has been working to bring an entrepreneurial mindset, skillset and valuable social capital to Black and Latinx youth in underserved communities, starting at the age of 14. In the same way, the VC industry invests in entrepreneurs and the broader tech ecosystem, BUILD invests in young entrepreneurs living in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. BUILD is building a pipeline of future entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who will go on to lead and work for amazing companies.
Over the years, BUILD has garnered support from several VC firms including Accomplice, Bain Capital Ventures, Flybridge, Pillar VC and Polaris — but that’s just a drop in the bucket. Despite BUILD’s success, less than 5% of Boston’s VC firms sponsor or actively engage with the program. This is a KPI the VC community can’t be proud of.
“Venture funds are looking for ways they can help address the systemic issues of race and inequity affecting entrepreneurs of color. BUILD’s program is specifically focused on investing in students when they are in high school — providing the entrepreneurial, business and academic training required for future success. We call on our friends and colleagues in the venture community to join us in supporting this organization and collectively making a difference as an industry,” says Ajay Agarwal, managing director at Bain Capital Ventures.
Here’s a call to action for the VC community.
It’s time to invest in Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. BUILD has hundreds of teams and eager youth that will build you a deck, manufacture a prototype, calculate margin and go to market. There is nothing stopping 100% of Boston VCs from funding a BIPOC team in 2020. BUILD will work with each firm, in its own unique way, to determine a student team they can either sponsor or actively participate via mentorship and coaching. You can also host an intern to help expose them to the VC world.
Imagine the precedent we could set if every Boston venture firm was behind a young local BIPOC business from our most underserved neighborhoods. Let’s talk. Young entrepreneurs are waiting.
Boston VCs, support, sponsor or mentor a local BIPOC youth entrepreneur team at www.buildinboston.org/volunteer/.
Cosigned by: Ayele Shakur, CEO, BUILD Ajay Agarwal, Bain Capital Ventures TJ Mahony, Accomplice Jeff Bussgang, Flybridge Capital Amir Nashat, Polaris Ventures Sarah Hodges, Pillar VC
BUILD aims to use entrepreneurship as an avenue to advance the potential of youth from under-resourced communities. Through mentoring, BUILD teaches students all the steps of launching a business through an in-school elective taught in 9th through 12th grade.