A shorter version of this piece originally appeared in Forbes.
In the mid-17th century, the average Chinese farmer knew the exact size of his market. China had been cultivating staples like rice and buckwheat for thousands of years, honing planting, harvesting, and distribution down to a precise science. So when European traders showed up with an exotic new tuber from South America they called the “potato,” many established farmers probably expected that the new crop would take over some fraction of the existing market for rice.
This March, Alpha Edison launched the #StartWithEight initiative, challenging our colleagues in VC to join us in taking meetings with eight women from outside our usual networks during the month of March. As we noted then, the statistics about women in venture capital are dismal. In 2017, only 2 percent of venture capital funding went to female founders, and only 8 percent of partners at the top venture capital firms were women. Meanwhile, Only 18 black female founders had raised more than $1M of venture capital for their startups, ever.
These numbers aren’t a secret; it’s widely known that women and minorities face prodigious barriers to entry in VC, but so far, a solution to correct the inequity has been elusive. The #StartWithEight campaign is a first step in correcting the historical imbalance and opening up pipeline access. The next step focuses on the other half of the equation: addressing and reducing bias.
The statistics about women and venture capital have been widely documented. Only 2% of venture capital funding went to female founders in 2017. Just 8% of partners at the top venture capital firms are women. Only 18 black female founders have raised more than $1M of venture capital for their startups (ever).¹ The data highlights a critical issue, but so far solutions and tangible action have been insufficient.