Venture

Why I Used My Startup’s Techstars Demo Day To Advocate For Other Black Founders

By Craig J. Lewis

Pitching at a Techstars Demo Day is known to increase a startup’s business and serves as a good way to attract more investors. So as everyone in our cohort was practicing their pitches to land new investors, I wanted to use my space and time creatively. We were preparing to close our Series A round, and didn’t need any more investors, but we knew other Black founders did. And I knew that the investor community would be listening to our pitches.

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Investors needed to understand the opportunity they were missing out on by not prioritizing investing in more Black founders. More specifically, they were missing out on ROI. Investors typically invest in what they’re familiar and comfortable with, so you will see more Black entrepreneurs getting cash when you see more Black investors.

Craig J. Lewis, founder and CEO of Gig Wage

The vast majority of investors are white males. In that case, it “makes sense” that they would be comfortable and resonate and relate more to other white males. Discrimination and racism are embedded in America’s fabric, so it’s designed to exclude underserved and underrepresented people.

We need the unique perspectives from diverse communities because diversity is not just a Black thing. If you’re serving a diverse global market, you want various ideas built into your product, made into your culture, and built in to your service. The more diverse the builders are, the better the solution is for the consumer. Diversity is an innovation multiplier.

Black people are violently discriminated against every day. While it’s still continuing to happen, George Floyd’s murder acted as a catalyst for awareness. It was an awakening for people to acknowledge, empathize and speak up for their fellow friends and family, even if it was uncomfortable.

Being Black, a person of color, or a woman, we’re made to feel uncomfortable all the time. For any place of growth and success, you have got to be uncomfortable. This is not an awkward subject for me because I live this every day; I am Black. If I do an excellent thing, then I am “a Black person doing an excellent thing in America.” Black people are underinvested in. With an audience of investors at Demo Day, I wanted to use this opportunity to advocate for Black people to get more funding for building great businesses.

America is not designed to help Black people prosper — we’ve got to keep working to fix that. At Gig Wage, we built EndQualifiedImmunityNow.org as an ongoing initiative to do what we can to keep things like the George Floyd murder from happening.

At the end of the day, everyone needs to help out by hiring more Black people and investing in more Black entrepreneurs. If you’re not in the decision-making position, use the influence you have to refer Black people to jobs. Use your occupation and skill set to advocate for Black people, just like Gig Wage did on Demo Day.

Craig J. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Gig Wage, the first simplified fintech payroll platform built for the global 1099 gig economy.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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