Full disclosure: This article mentions investments by TEDCO, a Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder client. That relationship is unrelated to this report.
Coppin State University set the stage for discussions on supporting Black women entrepreneurs this week.
TEDCO’s Black Female Founders Venture Capital Forum on Tuesday focused on themes of empowerment, collaboration and success, centered on women navigating the entrepreneurial journey. The event featured two panels — one with founders sharing experiences, resources and advice, and another with venture capital experts offering insights into their criteria and navigating resources.
Speakers included Mike Ravenscroft from Maryland Momentum Fund and Tammi Thomas, representing TEDCO alongside CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall, who moderated. Tech entrepreneurs Tina Williams-Koroma, founder of CyDeploy, and the Technical.ly Awards’ 2022 Culture Builder of the Year winner Ashley Williams, founder of Clymb, were among the notable voices at the forum.
Attendees and panelists shared their insights from the event with Technical.ly on the disparities and challenges faced by Black women in entrepreneurship, and the benefits of gathering. These perspectives have been edited for brevity and clarity:
Elizabeth Clayborne, founder, NasaClip
“This was one of the most moving TEDCO events I have ever attended,” Clayborne wrote in an email to Technical.ly. “The authentic and honest reflections of the founders helped me to feel seen and heard. It was encouraging to participate in a conversation directly with VCs to address bias and the challenges of fundraising as a Black Female Founder.”
“This is very specifically about discrimination against Black women,” Pappas wrote. “The same strong, powerful, brilliant, Black women that we know and love and that create incomprehensible value for our Baltimore entrepreneurial ecosystem and our world.”
Mike Ravenscroft, managing director, Maryland Momentum Fund
“Yesterday was an eye-opener,” Ravenscroft wrote on LinkedIn, describing the “privilege” of hearing from founders like Koroma regarding the challenges they faced as Black women in raising capital for their ventures.
Ravenscroft also took the stage himself at the forum and alongside Jeff Cherry, managing general partner of Conscious Venture Partners, and others for a discussion on the systemic problems in venture capital and startup financing that create unequal opportunities for BIPOC and female founders.
In an email to Technical.ly, Ravenscroft wrote: “My biggest takeaway from the event is that this was a critical dialogue to elevate. Now it’s time to turn words into action.”
He also pointed to how encouraging it was that Maryland investors and entrepreneurial support organizations are seemingly “rising to the challenge” to help Black female founders in raising capital.
Tina Williams-Koroma, founder, CyDeploy
“Understanding the challenges black women face in venture funding takes intentionality in order to be a part of the solution. Well intentioned folks that aren’t actively tracking their data and outcomes, or getting feedback on their blind spots, are just another part of the problem,” Williams-Koroma wrote in an email to Technical.ly. “There are opportunities for the black community to come together creatively to invest in ourselves.”
Stepp-Jones participated in the Founders Panel at the forum.
“In the venture landscape, it’s crucial for funders to recognize the immense value in the valley,” she told Technical.ly via email. “This valley is where Black female business ideas often reside — ideas that may be unfamiliar, but nonetheless, carry tremendous potential. The means to capital for Black female founders may be unconventional, requiring a nuanced understanding from investors.”
She added: “Oftentimes, in this valley, these unique perspectives are overlooked, and it’s essential for funders to broaden their lens. The unfamiliarity with certain business models or industries doesn’t diminish their value; rather, it requires a shift in perspective to appreciate the untapped potential that lies within.”
She also emphasized that supporting Black female founders should not merely be an act of diversity but, more importantly, an investment in the innovative ideas of Black women, which may follow unconventional paths to success.
“I’ll just say that yesterday was equal parts inspiring and challenging,” Bailey said. “We got to hear from brilliant, talented black women founders, all experts in their respective fields, that continue to face the challenge of growing and scaling tech companies because of bias and flawed systems and practices, not just within the venture capital community, but across the high growth tech industry.”
He added: “My hope is that these difficult but honest conversations will continue in safe spaces and with leaders who currently hold positions of influence and power. Investing in Black women is not just the right thing to do, it’s a huge economic opportunity. One that Baltimore is primed to capitalize on.”
Troy LeMaile-Stovall, CEO, TEDCO
“It was [a] great and impactful beginning to the conversation that will lead to MD being a leader in investing in underserved markets, communities & founders, esp Black Women,” LeMaile-Stovall wrote in an email to Technical.ly.
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