DIVERSITY: StartupStarter’s Mission is to Level the Playing Field for the Under-Represented Founder. The Social Network for Entrepreneurs, Investors and Service Providers Launches…..
This opinion piece, about the founding of StartupStarter, was written by Jose Barrera, founder and CEO. StartupStarter is a social network (virtual for now), with HQ in LA.
It invites founders, mentors, advisors, investors and service providers to join. It provides founders with a free, lifetime, premium membership.
It aims to level the playing field by enabling local, national and even global connections among all players in the startup ecosystem — from impact investing to e-commerce to logistics.
2020 left a mark in history books across the world. The fragility of our society and the issues that have been plaguing it for many years suddenly came to the surface and were impossible to ignore.
The world went into hibernation, and the one that is coming out of it is a lot different than the one we knew.
In the new world, it is no longer tolerated to discriminate against people just because they look different than us or come from less privileged backgrounds.
Many people are now taking a stand for what’s right and many people are now taking a stand to make this place a better world.
In the world of startups, there’s now a drive to fund the under-privileged and under-represented, those that haven’t had the luck of being born into the right family or in the right part of town — a drive to fund those that don’t have a successful network that can help them succeed. This is a step in the right direction, something that has been needed for a long time.
However, we still have a lot of things to work on. Funding is great, but in order to get funding you still need to have a company, a good one, and one that is venture-fundable, which is the core of the problem.
If more underrepresented founders had really well-thought-out companies, they would get funding. Nobody is going to ignore a good product, especially one that can bring serious returns to a venture capitalist.
The issue we still have is one of culture, because not enough minorities get exposed to the same culture of building companies and seeing the world through the lens of opportunity early on.
Culture is at the core of progress, yet curating it and fostering it for less-privileged groups is something we have continuously failed at for many years.
Usually when you see people of color that are being highlighted for their success, and those that make it into prestigious companies, it’s usually because early on they worked really hard to make it into prestigious schools that would then open a world of opportunities to them.
In short, we usually highlight those that follow the path of white America and welcome them into our companies with open arms.
However, for a 16-year-old kid living with a single parent in South LA and surrounded by kids that are barely going to graduate high school, following this path and going to a place like Harvard simply sounds impossible.
By the time that kid is in his 20s and really wants to succeed, he might start to realize he’s ill-prepared, and that perhaps taking a different path earlier on would’ve been beneficial, if he had only known.
However, how could he, though, when the only people being highlighted for their successes are nothing like him.
In many ways this is my story and that of my co-founders. I’m an immigrant, I moved to the U.S. from Colombia at 13, joined the Air Force at 18, and lived overseas until I was 24.
When I came back to the U.S. and started a career all over again, I began to realize how the world really worked, how opportunity is a privilege usually offered to those with privileged backgrounds, and that I had a lot of catching up to do.
When I joined my first startup I realized that this issue was not just something that military members go through, because I saw that our team was as ill-prepared as I was, and neither of us had the right connections to point us in the right direction.
Our product was super-smart, well-designed, and had a big mission; it simply wasn’t something that consumers wanted, and therefore investors didn’t want it either. If we had only known.
For this reason we created StartupStarter. To help bring the culture of opportunity and building companies to the mainstream – so that kids in South LA can see a path to a better future, which is not as out of reach as Harvard appears to be.
Although there are a lot of programs out there to help startups get ahead, these programs are usually so tech-y and often scholarly that they keep others away simply because they feel they don’t fit in.
If you go to a startup event, it’s usually not the mainstream kids that are there. And, if they are, they stick out from the crowd as the outsiders, and that’s what we wanted to fix.
Our team comes from all different backgrounds and different levels of experience building companies, which has helped us create a solution that is both concise and efficient.
We’re also all minorities: Latin, Black, Indian, military veteran, and LGBTQ, so we focus on creating a brand that speaks to everyone, a brand that is cool, inclusive and modern.
Something that most companies in our field don’t seem to be able to get right.
Our platform is designed for efficiency; it’s an ever-evolving product that will only get better and better over time, making the entrepreneurship experience easier and more straightforward for everyone.
Our brand is designed for accessibility, it’s made for the mainstream, it’s cool and familiar, more hip than tech-y, and definitely not out of reach.
Our goal is to make it to where if a kid can simply see our logo somewhere, he or she can then get started in the world of entrepreneurship early on.
Our mission is to democratize entrepreneurship and make the process of building a successful business accessible to anyone, not just a select few with the right background or connections.
As long as we stick to our mission and always optimize for efficiency, we will continue to create impact.