34 Organizations Building Social Capital for Diverse Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter

Accelerator. Incubator. Ecosystem Builder. Social Capital. These words are commonly used in the startup world, but can feel like jargon to those unfamiliar with the entrepreneurship space. They describe the partners and resources that are essential in an entrepreneur’s journey—mentors, education and connections that help founders succeed. Harvard Kennedy School refers to social capital as “the collective value of all ‘social networks’ (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (‘norms of reciprocity’).” Basically, social capital ensures that you are connected to the right people who will provide you with trusted information, collaboration and partnerships. Social capital is particularly important when an entrepreneur is just starting out and needs advisors who have been there before and connections to funders who are willing to work with them to build a business.

At the Case Foundation, we believe that the next era of entrepreneurship is about leveling the playing field, expanding participation and scaling the networks of social, financial and inspiration capital that provide the foundation for successful startups and scalable business. We partner with social capital networks providing important connections, training and mentorships for entrepreneurs, as well as the investors and influencers working to change the way capital flows to diverse entrepreneurs. Incubators for those just starting out, accelerators for those looking to grow and the ecosystem builders generally paving the way for entrepreneurs to succeed.

All entrepreneurs have similar needs—mentorship, funding, role models—but not all entrepreneurs have equal access to those resources. We see disproportionate funding going to white male entrepreneurs and underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color in most major incubator and accelerator programs. When only a portion of the entrepreneurship community has access to the stepping stones needed to grow their business, it’s no wonder most of the breakout companies we laud in our society are founded by white men. To combat this trend, we have committed to catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement and launched #FacesofFounders to shed more light on the diverse entrepreneurs scaling businesses and important conversations around inclusive entrepreneurship we must have to change how our culture views entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, more and more entrepreneurship programs are being set up with intentionality around creating on-ramps for women entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs of color. Whether it’s a network for women only or an existing accelerator that has benchmarks for inclusion among its cohort, entrepreneurship supporters are getting serious about providing the resources diverse founders need to be successful.

To learn more about these inclusion-focused accelerators, incubators and ecosystem builders, we’ve put together a list to get you started. These organizations are committed to the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, taking action within their organizations to support diverse entrepreneurs and leaders in the field demonstrating the value of providing underrepresented groups of entrepreneurs with access to capital, networks and support. We are proud to be working to advance inclusive entrepreneurship alongside these organizations and the many more out there committed to this work!

Follow all of the organizations below with one click—subscribe to our Twitter list!

Organization Name
Twitter Handle
Twitter Bio
500 Startups
@500Startups
500 Startups is a seed fund & a network of startup programs. Founded by PayPal & Google alums. Born in Silicon Valley, the #500STRONG family is worldwide.
American Underground
@AmerUnderground
The ‘Startup Capital of the South’ and one of ten Google for Entrepreneur Tech Hubs. We are home to more than 275 startups in downtown Durham & Raleigh.
Black Founders
@blackfounders
Dedicated to increasing the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech.
Black Tech Week
@blacktechweek
Black Tech Week is a week long series of events in Miami, Florida celebrating innovators of color. contact@blacktechweek.com
Blackstone Launchpad
@bxlaunchpad
Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus entrepreneurship program offering coaching, ideation and venture creation support. http://t.co/eBdvnPhkvo
Blueprint + Co
@blueprintandco
The workplace that works for you.
Change Catalyst
@changecatalysts
Empowering diverse leaders to #changetheworld. #socent #BCorp #impinv #startups #techinclusion16 https://t.co/8qMdI23qfd by @mbrianaepler @waynesutton & team
Circular Board
@CircularB
A collaborative startup accelerator serving a thriving community of globally minded women entrepreneurs.
CODE2040
@CODE2040
Top black and latinx tech talent. Founders @tristanwalker + @laurawp. Follow the CODE2040 family: https://t.co/BS9giAiF33
Defy Ventures
@DefyVentures
We are an entrepreneurship, employment, and leadership training program that serves people with criminal histories.
digitalundivided
@digundiv
digitalundivided (DID) fosters economic growth through the empowerment of women of color entrepreneurs.
DivInc
@DivIncatx
We are a 12-week pre-accelerator program focused on championing diversity in the tech startup ecosystem.
Duke I&E
@EshipatDuke
Latest happenings from the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Google for Entrepreneurs
@GoogleForEntrep
News and updates from Google for Entrepreneurs.
Groundwork
@groundworklabs
A community that provides mentorship, peer-support, and a discovery experience for select startups and entrepreneurs
Halcyon Incubator
@HalcyonIncubate
Supports early stage social entrepreneurs through an immersive 18-month fellowship program
HBCU Innovation
@HBCUInnovation
in3
@In3DC
Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) – D.C’s first co-working, training, & incubator space intentional about diversity & inclusion. #FindYourIn by @luma_lab 💡
Jumpstart Inc
@jumpstartinc
We are a nationally recognized nonprofit that unlocks the full potential of diverse & ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities.
Kauffman Foundation
@KauffmanFDN
Fostering economic independence by advancing education & entrepreneurship. RTs ≠ endorsements. House Rules https://t.co/963BVtcqVu
Kapor Center
@KaporCenter
The Kapor Center is relentlessly pursuing creative strategies to leverage tech for positive, progressive change.
Latino Startup Alliance
@Latino_Startups
To encourage the inspiration & cultivation of Latino led tech startup ventures by providing a support network of fellow innovators, mentors & investors.
Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center
@thecenter
The #startup for startups! Designed to #educate, #innovate, and connect #entrepreneurs – all free of charge. Grow your ideas. Get inspired. Tell your story!
New Profit
@newprofit
Break through with New Profit. https://t.co/mRBW5FClRb
The Pink Ceiling
@thepinkceiling
Propelling Breakthroughs for Women | Strategy + Investing | Mentorship Through the #Pinkubator | All Woman Team | Founder Cindy Whitehead @cindypinkceo
PowerMoves
@PowerMovesUSA
PowerMoves is about creating power through opportunity – the opportunity of high growth minority Traditional & Tech Entrepreneurship.
Project Entrepreneur
@pjtentrepreneur
Project Entrepreneur ignites bold ideas by providing women access to the tools, training and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies
SEED SPOT
@seedspot
#SocEnt incubator w/ locations in Washington, D.C. & Phoenix, AZ. Educating, accelerating & investing in entrepreneurs creating solutions to social problems.
Sephora Accelerate
@SephoraStands
Through Sephora Stands, we will use our strengths to promote even greater good by supporting female entrepreneurs in beauty, our communities, and our people.
Social Innovation Lab
@SIL_Baltimore
Social Innovation Lab at @JohnsHopkins – Accelerating ventures that create change and opportunity in Baltimore and beyond. Director: @DariusG
Tory Birch Foundation
@ToryBurchFdn
The official Tory Burch Foundation tweets.
Unshackled Ventures
@UnshackledUS
An early stage venture fund for immigrant founders to create economic value in the U.S.
Village Capital
@villagecapital
We democratize entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs themselves build and invest in world-changing companies. A new type of VC.
Women’s Startup Lab
@wslab
Leading Women’s Startup Accelerator in Silicon Valley. Be Exceptional. Be Extraordinary. Be the Impact.

For more data on accelerators and the entrepreneurs they serve, check out the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative led by the Aspen Institute and Emory University at https://www.galidata.org/.

Have other tips for choosing an entrepreneurship program? A program or ecosystem builder you’ve seen that’s committed to inclusive entrepreneurship? We know there are many more out there! Share them with us at FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter with hashtag #FacesofFounders.

Time to Tap All of America’s Entrepreneurship Potential

Entrepreneurs have been at the center of our American story for centuries. Indeed, entrepreneurs have powered our economy, fueled job growth and introduced innovations that have contributed to the quality of life we enjoy today. In fact, you could say that the American Experience is built on the backs of entrepreneurs who took risks because they believed that in America, anyone from anywhere could bring the next big idea to life.

While as a nation we celebrate our startup and innovation culture, any telling of this American story would not be complete without noting that a fundamental shift has taken place in recent decades in the funding of entrepreneurs and the new companies they build: venture capital. Venture capital is known for its role in funding select firms that have high growth potential. Indeed, many of the most celebrated American brands and businesses were fueled by an infusion of early venture capital into the companies, including Google, Airbnb, Whole Foods, Starbucks and Tesla. And the role of venture capital goes far beyond funding – it often brings with it strategic guidance for young entrepreneurs, access to an elite network of other successful business leaders and often serves as a magnet for follow-on funding by others. The economic impact of venture capital cannot be overstated. A 2015 study by Stanford School of Business on the subject had this to say: “Venture capital has profoundly changed the U.S. economy. It has become a dominant force in the financing of innovative American companies.”

Think of venture capital as the “secret sauce” of investments and resources that often make the difference as to whether a young entrepreneur breaks out with great success, or withers on the vine. But a growing body of data highlights a sobering fact: we aren’t tapping the full potential for innovation and ingenuity in this great nation because venture capital has favored a limited few – most of them men; most of them white. Indeed, research into where the venture capital is going reveals that only 10% of venture-backed companies had a female founder; only 1% had an African American founder. And 78% of all venture capital went to just 3 states: California, New York and Massachusetts, leaving the other 47 states to share just a quarter of the pie. Imagine the potential economic upside if more segments of society could compete for venture capital for their firms.

And the data shows the sectors being overlooked by venture capital are strong, vibrant and perform well.

Consider the data:

When it comes to performance in business, data suggests these groups can outperform the norms. For instance, Fortune reported that women-led companies perform three times better than the S&P 500. First Round Capital looked at their portfolio of investments and found that companies with a female founder performed 60% better than those with all-male founded teams. A McKinsey study reported that racially diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%. And those other 47 states? They are the home of three-quarters of all Fortune 500 companies. There is a deep and rich history of innovation and business success between the coasts in America.

At the Case Foundation, we believe that this data, while arresting, represents a powerful economic opportunity to seize, simply by taking steps to be intentional in reaching out to find and fund new, high growth and innovative startups from broader segments of society. By building onramps to funding, networking and mentoring for all sectors of society, we can expand economic opportunities more broadly and tap markets that have been underserved. We know that investors and, frankly most of us, connect to people with similar experiences. As 93 percent of investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are men, they will need to consciously step outside their comfort zones. But the data and the opportunity outlined here speaks directly to why many joined the venture capital field in the first place. We think funding entrepreneurs who see things a little differently and who develop innovations that tap new markets is at the center of the venture capital world and those who open doors to a more diverse pool of innovators will be pleased with what they find.

And we are not alone in our excitement for the opportunities that will come from infusing new energy and new perspectives into the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our partners in this work, the Kauffman Foundation, have championed initiatives to expand entrepreneurial growth and just this month launched a campaign to lower barriers to entry for new businesses and to “develop solutions and empower more entrepreneurs to pursue their ambitions.”

As part of this movement, we have launched the Medium publication #FacesofFounders, designed to elevate a discussion of entrepreneurship, race, place and gender. We welcome you to engage with this conversation, share your story and hear from founders of all backgrounds, at all stages in their startup journey, to highlight how entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas come from all backgrounds and are poised to play a key role in America’s innovation economy.

To start the conversation about identifying the next generation of innovators, #FaceofFounders on Medium will be focusing on three opportunities for you to take action to support entrepreneurs nationwide.

Opportunity 1: Champion All Entrepreneurs

There are diverse entrepreneurs out there already starting, growing and successfully exiting their ventures, across sectors of society and across the nation. We will showcase the incredible pipeline of entrepreneurs already calling themselves “Founders” and embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. And we urge you to join us in celebrating this universe of inclusive entrepreneurs.

Opportunity 2: Challenge Unconscious Bias

We also must open the door to more people by acknowledging that unconscious bias is real. By acknowledging that unconscious bias is real, we can begin to create systems that source entrepreneurs beyond existing bubbles and influence the standard criteria used by investors as they assess potential investments.

Opportunity 3: Extend Privilege—Get in the Arena

Investors, ecosystem builders, mentors, advocates, connectors, board members. No matter who you are, there’s a role you can play to extend opportunities to all entrepreneurs. #GetInTheArena and help champion the possibility of entrepreneurship for all.

The Path Forward

To educate and inspire you to take action, we will feature stories of diverse entrepreneurs who are dreaming, building and scaling successful businesses. These founders come from all backgrounds—women, men, Latinx, African Americans, B Corps, students, immigrants, moms, engineers, artists—but have a common vision that their idea holds great promise. Each week, we will profile an innovator that you may or may not have heard of, but whose story will hopefully inspire you or someone you know to say “I can do it. I can be an entrepreneur.” If we seize this opportunity to democratize entrepreneurship, we will not only support new innovators, we will strengthen innovation and redouble our commitment that anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at the American Dream.

Join the conversation on entrepreneurship, race, place and gender at FacesofFounders.org.

#FacesofFounders Featured Stories—Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Today we released the fifth and final featured story from our #FacesofFounders campaign. Launched in October and culminating today with the final story, #FacesofFounders seeks out and lifts up America’s dynamic, diverse entrepreneurs who are key to driving innovation and job growth. These five entrepreneurs stood out for their groundbreaking work, inspiring journeys and ability to shatter stereotypes through their commitment to inclusive entrepreneurship.

As we celebrate these five founders, we are reminded that they are just the tip of iceberg. The #FacesofFounders campaign received nearly 750 compelling and inspiring stories of entrepreneurship occurring all over the country, led by founders from all backgrounds. And we know that this is only a small subset of startup activity happening in communities from Maine to Arizona, Washington to Mississippi. These five entrepreneurs are ambassadors of the enormous stock of talent that exists that does not receive the exposure, mentorship or capital that they deserve. This campaign is designed to lift up five entrepreneurs, but to also shine a light on all diverse entrepreneurs and debunk the myth that diverse entrepreneurs are few and far between, or too hard to find.

Those featured in Fast Company include four pairs of co-founders and one solo founder, three men and six women and come from four different states and the District of Columbia. They work in a variety of sectors that are addressing innovation and social change around the world.

Meet our #FacesofFounders winners:

  • Stephanie Lampkin is a true champion of inclusive entrepreneurship who turned a denied opportunity into disruptive innovation with her Blendoor application. We were inspired by Stephanie’s holistic approach to addressing diversity and the way she uses her tech expertise to tackle hiring bias.
    See Stephanie’s complete story here.
  • Jean Sim and Irena Todd are creating solutions in the world of affordable children’s haircare products. Both working moms and immigrants with extensive corporate-sector experience, they created Fresh Monster to provide a low-cost way to safely wash kids’ hair.
    See Jean and Irena’s complete story here.
  • Anjali Kataria and her husband Vinay Bhargava co-founded Mytonomy, a health tech company that educates and informs patients through technology, ensuring they arrive at appointments prepared and fully educated on their medical needs. Anjali background working at iconic tech companies allowed her to use her previous experience and successes to advance the healthcare industry.
    See Anjali complete story here.
  • Kristen Sonday channeled her life experience into a drive to create a business with a mission. Kristen, along with co-founder Felicity Conrad, launched Paladin to tackle a problem lawyers across the country face. Her legal pro-bono matchmaking service ensures that attorneys are matched with the right organizations in need of legal assistance.
    See Kristen and Felicity’s complete story here.
  • George Ashton and Yuri Horwitz seized upon an opportunity in the rapidly changing solar energy market to build Sol Systems, a mission-driven company working towards cleaner energy through investments. They focus on innovation in the larger energy world as well as within their own company.
    See Yuri and George’s complete story here.

We are proud to have partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, UBS and Fast Company on the campaign. Thank you to all the entrepreneurs who shared their stories and supporters of inclusive entrepreneurship who joined the movement.

The #FacesofFounders series on Fast Company is an example of the long-term commitment that the Case Foundation has to ensuring all entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need to build and scale a company. We will continue to support and celebrate entrepreneurs from all races, places and genders as we catalyze the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship. To learn more about our work to support all entrepreneurs, to continue the discussion on entrepreneurship, race, place and gender and to meet more entrepreneurs who are breaking down barriers, visit FacesofFounders.org.

Announcing the Five #FacesofFounders Featured Stories

The Case Foundation is proud to announce the results of our first-ever #FacesofFounders campaign. The effort, a centerpiece of the Foundation’s inclusive entrepreneur movement, invited entrepreneurs—particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color—to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders. Launched at the White House’s South by South Lawn festival, in partnership with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, #FacesofFounders seeks out and lifts up America’s dynamic entrepreneurs who are key to driving innovation and job growth. The winners of the crowdsourced contest, who were reviewed by our panel of forty guest judges, were selected because they are bridging innovation and commitment to inclusiveness.  

Meet the winners!

  • Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of the Blendoor application, has leveraged her tech expertise to tackle hiring bias.
  • Jean Sim and Irena Todd are working moms and immigrants who have built Fresh Monster to address a gap in affordable children’s haircare products.
  • Anjali Kataria co-founded Mytonomy, a health tech company that educates and informs patients through technology, ensuring they arrive at appointments prepared and fully educated on their medical needs.
  • George Ashton and Yuri Horwitz seized upon an opportunity in the rapidly changing solar energy market to build Sol Systems, a mission-driven company working towards cleaner energy through investments.
  • Kristen Sonday, along with co-founder Felicity Conrad, launched Paladin to create a legal pro-bono matchmaking service to ensure that attorneys are matched with the right organizations in need of legal assistance.

Each of the winners will be featured this week on FastCompany.com. Today, the story of how Jean Sim and Irena Todd built Fresh Monster was released, but check back each day to read the next story of barrier-breaking innovators from around the country.

We celebrate the five winners in their own right, but also for the light they shine on the tremendous talent and excitement that the #FacesofFounders campaign surfaced. Nearly 4,000 people uploaded a photo and selected a filter showing what entrepreneurship means to them. Nearly 750 founders took the time to thoughtfully and passionately tell us the story of their entrepreneurship journey—with entries from 42 states, 63 percent of whom were women entrepreneurs and 63 percent of whom were entrepreneurs of color. And these stories came from entrepreneurs building businesses across a multitude of sectors—from retail, technology, arts, health and finance industries, among others.

Thank you to everyone who has joined the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship! Founders like Kristen, Felicity, George, Yuri, Anjali, Jean, Irena and Stephanie are proof points that innovative, successful businesses are built across the nation, by entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Together, we are changing the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

Behind the Scenes with the Judges of #FacesofFounders

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, we launched the #FacesofFounders campaign last fall to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur. In October and November, over 3,000 people created a custom photo with a caption of what entrepreneurship means to them and nearly 750 founders submitted their entrepreneurship story. From our launch at the White House’s South By South Lawn festival, to Jean Case’s talk about unlocking the American Dream for all at TEDxMidAtlantic, #FacesofFounders has inspired and energized us all to join the movement for inclusive entrepreneurship. After some challenging choices and deep analysis by our guest judges, we’re excited to announce that the five winning stories will be featured on Fast Company starting February 27th!

In preparation for this reveal, we asked a few of our guest judges to share some behind the scenes insights and words of wisdom about the opportunities and challenges of being an entrepreneur. Thank you to all of our judges—we could not get to this point alone! We were joined by forty guest judges who are experts in entrepreneurship ecosystem building, investors or entrepreneurs themselves. Here is what they have to share with us as we all find new ways to #GetInTheArena and fight for meaningful inclusion in entrepreneurship.

What is a piece of advice you wish you had known when starting out in the entrepreneurship field?

Take action when you’re 80% ready. There are lots of people with great ideas, but the real traction is gained by those who take continuous action on those ideas.
– Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

Surround yourself with a community of supporters. Ideas are born out of dreams for something new, different, and impactful. It takes a lot of time, nourishment, and most importantly a community of supporters to enable an idea to truly flourish into a venture. Every entrepreneurial success has taken hundreds of small and big connections to bring it to life.
– 
C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT

Entrepreneurs are explorers. Your adventure will have extreme highs and lows, but the journey will be worth the destination.
– 
Elizabeth Gore, Dell

As an intrapreneur, I wish I knew that you don’t have to be perfect to launch a new project or endeavor. It’s so easy to get caught up in making something absolutely excellent, but the important lesson is don’t wait to launch. When we interviewed Eric Reiss of the Lean StartUp, I started to realize the importance of letting go of being a perfectionist and launching. Some of my favorite accomplishments have come from a Lean StartUp approach.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

I wish I had known that making an impact or doing meaningful work is not enough to build a sustainable, impactful venture. For social entrepreneurs, we must do the work that changes lives but we also have to constantly build and cultivate relationships with supporters and stakeholders as well as be compelling advocates for our cause. Making a measurable impact on someone’s life is the hardest and most meaningful part of social entrepreneurship, but it takes even more than that (like fundraising skills, management know-how, etc.) to be a successful social entrepreneur.
– 
Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Plenty of smart, dedicated, and passionate entrepreneurs with promising viable business ideas have lost out on opportunities or money due to horrible pitches. Here’s how not to be one of them—don’t try to tell your life story. These are the pitch perfect things to you want to convey: how the product, service, or technology you are offering solves a problem or pain that you are familiar with; how much of your own time and money are you willing to risk; who is your competitor because every business has one; how are you going to acquire new customers and keep any existing customers happy; and what is your business model and how it will make you money.
– 
Carolyn Brown, Black Enterprise

In every meeting, focus on the value you are providing—not the value of your company, but the value to the other person! If you’re fundraising, you should understand the problem the investor is trying to solve, and focus your conversation on how you help them solve the problem (not why you’re great!). If you’re talking to a customer, understand what their pain point is and focus on how you help them solve it (not why you’re great!). When talking about value, it’s better to be specific and wrong than vague and right, so try and be as specific as possible: not just “better” but “3x faster”; not just “cheaper” but “half the price”.
– Ross Baird, Village Capital

Hire slow and fire fast. When you’re starting up you might have a tendency to try to hire people quickly because it feels like momentum. The problem with that is that you may be compromising culture fit and you’re signing up for more as you’ve added payroll which means you now have to do more to sustain the team.  Additionally, in a startup every moment matters so if you find yourself with a hire that is not working out, make a change as soon as possible. Most likely the hire in question knows that they’re not the right fit – so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

Remember, everything you see is just a thought manifested. Your job is hustle, manifest and hustle some more! – Talib Graves-MannsBlack Wall Street Homecoming

What do you think distinguishes a promising entrepreneur?

I always keep an eye out for founders who are personally committed to their mission, and who have engaged others in making it come to life. When it becomes more than a solo mission, entrepreneurs hit a point where failure is no longer an option, and that’s where the real magic happens.
– 
Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

I look for evidence that the applicant has a deep, intimate understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served. This can be shown in different ways such as through work experience, academic study, or – most often – life experience. In my years of work supporting social entrepreneurs, one of the key things that sets apart the highly-impactful entrepreneurs from the less-impactful ones is an extensive understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served.
– Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Relationships matter, which means people matter. Successful entrepreneurs understand this and have fostered important relationships to propel themselves to success. As much as it might sometimes seem, nothing is an overnight instance success.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

What surprised you about the #FacesofFounders applications?

What surprised me the most about #FaceofFounders applicants was how diverse the businesses were. Innovation is alive and thriving! It’s exciting to learn about businesses that are disrupting, creating new ways, new products and many of them are making a difference in the world and their local communities.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

The sheer size of the positive energy around problem solving for experiences each founder had all over the country! My hope is #FacesofFounders has helped diverse entrepreneurs feel a community around them and that it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, where you grew up, or your political beliefs, but that ANYONE can start a venture with enough passion, true grit, and belief in creating a better future.
– C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT

Thanks again to all of our guest judges and partners Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS who made this campaign possible. Because of these partners and the thousands that have committed to join the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, we are opening doors to innovators everywhere to start and scale their businesses. Come back on Monday to read the featured stories of fearless, problem solving founders on Fast Company!

Our Most Popular Blogs of 2016

As we kick off the new year, we are taking a look back at our most popular blogs from 2016 to revisit key moments that inspired us here at the Case Foundation. We’ve collected the 10 most popular pieces—as determined by our community of readers. These blogs represent our areas of work in catalyzing movements and inspiring ideas that can change the world. We hope thes will remind us all to be bold, take risks and fail forward together around the issues you care most about in the coming year!

  1. Our Fearless Journey From Mission to Movements, by Jean Case

2016 was a year of transition for many, and the Case Foundation was no different. In August, our CEO Jean Case wrote about the journey we have taken from mission to movements, and how—as we have taken a journey of self-exploration and come to better understand our work & DNA—the Case Foundation has reframed our work. We’ve always been in the business of transformative change, but have come to realize that our real “special sauce” is that we use a Be Fearless approach to catalyze movements around social innovation and tip the scales form intention to action.

  1. Words Matter: How Should We Talk About Impact Investing?, by Jean Case

In March, our CEO Jean Case joined partners from Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, together with the Global Impact Investing Network and the Global Social Impact Investing Steering Group, to unveil research that tracked and analyzed coverage of the topic of impact investing in traditional and social media and shared insight into how the way we talk about impact investing can play a powerful role in informing, educating and activating people around the movement.

  1. Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing, by Sheila Herrling

2016 was a year of momentum for Impact Investing. From the Treasury Department and IRS’s release of new PRI regulations, to high profile new social impact funds like TPG’s $2 billion Rise fund, it’s evident that the movement is picking up steam. And another noticeable trend has stood out: women are emerging as a driving force behind its growth. In August, our SVP of Social Innovation, Sheila Herrling, wrote what would go on to become our second most popular blog post of the year, highlighting these trailblazing women in Impact Investing. We can’t wait to see the momentum continue in 2017.

  1. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report – Phase 1, by Emily Yu

One of the hottest topics of 2016 was the election, so it is not surprising that on of our top blog posts of the year was about our Millennial Impact Report, which looked at how Millennials were engaging with the election and how the election effected their cause engagement. Among our top blogs was also “Millennials Cast Their Vote For Cause Engagement,” another post on the Millennial Impact Report, this time about Phase 2.

  1. 2016 Conferences On Our Radar, by Jade Floyd

2016 was an action packed year for the Case Foundation, and much of the great momentum we saw this year was fueled by wonderful in-person interactions at conferences and convenings. From SXSW, to SOCAP, to crisscrossing the country for #FacesofFounders activations at the White House, the New York Stock Exchange, Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, Google’s headquarters and more, we loved getting the chance to reach beyond our bubbles and meet so many changemakers face-to-face. Keep an eye out for our upcoming list of 2017 Conferences On Our Radar.

  1. Twitter Lists:

We’ve loved the conversations we have and information we learn from the engaged social impact communities on Twitter. In 2015 we started a series of Twitter lists to help people join in these conversations and better know who to follow to find out more about topics we care deeply about. Several of these lists made it into our top blog posts of 2016:

  1. The Myth of the E-Word, by Sheila Herrling

Our Myth of the Entrepreneur series was started in the fall of 2015 to take a critical look at the common stories and myths told in startup culture, and as it continued into 2016, it was clear that the myths were striking a chord with our readers. The Myth of the “E Word” post contemplated the term “entrepreneur” itself as a possible barrier to expanding and diversifying entrepreneurship. “The Myth of STEM; The Only Way,” and “The Myth of the Coasts” also found their way into our top blog posts this year. We look forward to busting more myths in 2017 that are holding us back and breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship faced by women and entrepreneurs of color.

  1. One Fearless Question that Paved the Way for Women in Government, by Jean Case

On International Women’s Day, our CEO Jean Case shared a story about the fearless trailblazers Vera Glaser and Barbara Hackman Franklin. Vera Glaser’s #BeFearless question to President Richard Nixon questioning why more women were not a part of his cabinet set off an effort, headed by Barbara Hackman Franklin, that changed women’s access to high-level appointments in federal government. Our readers also enjoyed other Be Fearless examples that made it into our top blog post lists, such as our spotlight on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Jean’s blog post “Confronting Risk in Today’s Nonprofits.” You can learn more about how to Be Fearless in your pursuit of social good on our Be Fearless Hub.

  1. What’s Trending—Using Your Business as a Force For Good, by Sheila Herrling and Hardik Savalia

We are proud to partner with B Lab and their ground breaking work to help businesses identify and measure their social impact, and through the popularity of this blog post, it is clear that our readers are also excited about the potential of the B Impact Assessment. We’re excited that the Assessment can help all businesses, not just certified B Corps, to join the movement to redefine success for business, and measure their ability to build stronger communities, create environmentally sustainable operations or cultivate empowering employment opportunities.

  1. Innovation Madness: Elite Eight, by Jessica Zetzman

In conjunction with the NCAA Tournament, the Case Foundation decided to put our own twist on March Madness and introduced Innovation Madness, a celebration of Women’s History Month and the women who have been influential innovators in exploration, business and the STEM fields—yet are not recognized as often as their male counterparts. Our whole staff got in on the fun, chosing their favorite innovators, and we loved that hundreds of people voted and participated in Innovation Madness on social media. Check out the original bracket, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the Champion.

We are thrilled that these blog posts resonated with our readers in 2016, and look forward to continuing great conversations on and offline in 2017. Tell us what you want to read more about by using #CaseBlogs on Twitter.

Crisscrossing the Country to Lift Up Diverse Entrepreneurs

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, #FacesofFounders launched this fall to search for America’s dynamic entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs of color and women founders, who are key to driving innovation and job growth. Participants can upload their photos and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to tell their story for a chance to be featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com. Learn more at FacesofFounders.org.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Entrepreneurs around the world wake up every day asking themselves, “What problem does my company solve?” At the Case Foundation, we also ask ourselves, “What problems can we solve?”, particularly related to entrepreneurship. And we have seen the problems that entrepreneurs face in some very discouraging statistics.

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To address some of the barriers keeping women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color out of the arena, we partnered with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to begin to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur in this country. #FacesofFounders is about highlighting those who can use their diverse experiences to see diverse problems and tackle them in diverse ways.

We launched #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn festival last month, surrounded by changemakers and entrepreneurs who are committed to using their time and talents to make the world a better place.This campaign has been a whirlwind of exciting new ideas and discoveries that have given us a greater sense of optimism for the future of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have shared stories of cutting edge innovation and genius new ways to contribute to social good.These narratives embody our value of investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and our commitment to ensuring that any person with an innovative idea can bring that idea forward, regardless of their background.

We have travelled around the country meeting founders and supporters of inclusive entrepreneurship at SOCAP and Forbes 30 under 30 Summit, snapping photos at Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition, and hearing energizing stories at the New York Stock Exchange with Project Entrepreneur. At TEDxMidAtlantic, Jean Case gave a talk about just how urgent the inclusion of female founders and entrepreneurs of color is to securing the future we want to see for the world. Many of these entrepreneurs have never had their story told, or seen a story of someone who looks like them in a major media outlet. We are here to change that.

We are committed to inclusive entrepreneurship and have been joined on FacesofFounders.org and social media by thousands of others showing their support for a more inclusive approach to fostering entrepreneurship. But don’t take our word for it. Here is what some of those who have come along side us have to say:

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Entrepreneurs are decidedly Fearless; they focus on the urgency of now and let that drive their business with a vision for a better world. Diverse entrepreneurs do that while also combatting cultural norms that tell them they can’t be an entrepreneur and unconscious bias in the investment process. Whether you are an entrepreneur yourself or a supporter of inclusive entrepreneurship, add your voice at FacesofFounders.org to join the movement to redefine who is and can be an entrepreneur.

A quick note to entrepreneurs everywhere: You are a source of awe and inspiration, motivating others around the nation with your resilience and enthusiasm. Your creative spirits make us hopeful for a brighter future in creating the world we want. The time is now to be loud and proud about the value of our differences and redefine the idea of who is and can be an entrepreneur. The Case Foundation is calling on you, with all of your business-savvy and entrepreneurial energy, to be an example of why inclusive entrepreneurship is so crucial. Share your story on FacesofFounders.org for a chance to be featured in a sponsored story on Fast Company.com; your story matters for all of our futures.

#FacesofFounders Puts Entrepreneurship Front-And-Center at Forbes Under 30 Summit

The #FacesofFounders campaign, designed to highlight the dynamism and diversity of the modern entrepreneur, is in full force. Entrepreneurs from all walks of life and perspectives are uploading their photos and telling their stories at facesoffounders.org. The stories and the photos bring to life the fact that there has been a redefinition of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

In addition to uploading photos and stories at facesoffounders.org, we are taking our #FacesofFounders campaign and photo booth on the road. Last week we were in Boston with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation where we welcomed guests to the Forbes Under 30 Summit. At the event, hundreds of entrepreneurs snapped their photos and shared their stories of innovation.

While the #FacesofFounders photo booth was working overtime, we met with hundreds of founders, hosted Facebook Live conversations and watched insightful discussions with entrepreneurs from across the globe geared towards the topic of inclusivity. While there were many standouts at this event, in our opinion, these were the all-stars who stole the show and are representative of the changing face of entrepreneurship.

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  1. Founders Hayley Barna of First Round Capital and Birchbox, along with Lisa Falzone of Revel Systems, Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway and Marcella Sapone of Hello Alfred are changing the narrative around who is and can be an entrepreneur. On stage, they joined Janey Whiteside of American Express in a conversation on the changing face of entrepreneurship and how, by unlocking more flow of social capital, financial capital and knowledge capital, we can cultivate more women entrepreneurs.
  1. Christopher Gray, co-founder of Scholly, sat down with us in a Facebook Live interview for a conversation on the challenges he faced as a young Millennial founder and how we all can engage to change the narrative about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
  1. Trevor Wilkins, co-founder of Küdzoo, built a free mobile app where students cash in their grades for rewards. He shared with us during Facebook Live how the brand is leveraging incentives to motivate and reward students, and his experience building the brand as a founder of color.
  1. Sir Richard Branson took the stage for a conversation on breaking records, barriers and borders. He was joined by other top entrepreneurs Tyler Haney of Outdoor Voices, Payal Kadakla of ClassPass and James Proud of Hello, Inc. in discussion around the best ways to cause disruption, create change and achieve game-changing success.
  1. Eric Delgado and Victoria Weiss, co-founders of Rope Lace Supply and students at the University of Central Florida (UCF), joined us for a Facebook Live conversation on how the brand has grown from $300 to nearly $1 million in revenue in just three short years. The founders are part of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, a program that provides one-on-one startup coaching, seminars and access to a mentor network and subject-matter experts and their story is a compelling reminder of how the entrepreneurs from all ages can succeed.
  1. Actor and investor Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary of Sound Ventures, and Peter Boyce II of Rough Draft Ventures hosted the $1 Million Forbes Under 30 Pitch Competition. More than 1,000 Under 30 entrepreneurs entered for the opportunity to pitch their project and the final four competed on stage at Faneuil Hall for the grand prize—an investment from Kutcher, Oseary and Rough Draft Ventures/General Catalyst, as well as an advertising campaign in Forbes. Atlanta-Based honorCode, founded by Jeffery Martin to teach the intersection of computer programming and entrepreneurship to our communities’ most vulnerable youth, walked away with the highly sought after prize.

Check out the faces of several of these entrepreneurs and their supporters who are joining the movement to change who is and can be a founder on FacesofFounders.org, and be sure to show your support for entrepreneurship for all by sharing your photo and stories there as well. Read more about the 600 entrepreneurs and changemakers who are part of this year’s 2016 Forbes Under 30 class HERE.

Disclosure: Steve Case has made a personal investment in Scholly.

#FacesofFounders Launches from the White House at SXSL

Today the Case Foundation is launching the #FacesofFounders campaign aimed at catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement. Our goal is to help change the narrative of how people talk about entrepreneurs, with the goal of leveling the playing field, so everyone has a shot at the American Dream.

America itself was once a startup, built upon the founding principle that we all are created equal. It follows that we should all have an equal opportunity—if we work hard—to succeed. The hope and promise of America is the promise that anyone—from any place, any race, any gender, any age and any sexual orientation—can bring forward the next big idea.

Yet, all too often it appears that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. And that feels especially true for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. For a country where nearly all new jobs are being created by startups, maximizing opportunity for all entrepreneurs could not be a more urgent or important undertaking.

And so, this afternoon we are joined by more than 2,000 social champions for change as we launch #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn (SXSL) festival. The campaign creates a much-needed rallying cry for entrepreneurs and the allies who support them to showcase the diverse backgrounds and approaches of entrepreneurs today. Beginning today, until November 22nd, we invite all entrepreneurs—particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color, as well as all those who support inclusive startup ecosystems—to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders.

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We’ve partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to showcase and cultivate the best and brightest founders who are driving innovation and job creation across America. Additional promotional support is being provided by Black Enterprise and Latina Media Ventures. Together, we aim to change the storyline around who is and can be an entrepreneur.

Our commitment is to foster an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, one that expands support for inclusive networks and inspires entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to launch scalable companies with the potential for global change. We know we have work to do, as today only less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have at least one woman founder and less than one percent have an African American founder. Yet data shows women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse leadership teams provide greater returns for investors.

As we seek to showcase the diversity of entrepreneurs across our country and level the playing field for all entrepreneurs to thrive, we are inspired by the stories of women founders and entrepreneurs of color. Andrés Moreno of Open English, the internet-based English language instruction platform reaching more than 500,000 students, to date has received more than $120 million in venture capital funding. Or Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder of Zuvaa, who heads a social enterprise fashion brand that went from $500 in revenue to $2 million in just two years. And others like CEO Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family, who has created a B-Corporation and healthy baby food company sold in more than 40,000 stores across the globe. And in that “any age” category, how about Mikaila Ulmer, the dynamic 11-year old CEO and founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade sold in retailers like Whole Foods. These are founders who are changing the face of entrepreneurs in America and who can lead the next billion-dollar brands.

It’s time to change the narrative of how we talk about entrepreneurs in American culture. It’s time to break down the stereotypes of who can be an entrepreneur and correct the outdated myths of what an entrepreneur can look like. It’s time to lift up all entrepreneurs in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems.

Join us in this movement! Post your photos on FacesofFounders.org or using #FacesofFounders on Twitter. Share the campaign with someone who is helping to build more inclusive ecosystems. And if you are an entrepreneur, tell us your story at FacesofFounders.org—five founders will have their story featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com next spring. Let’s rise together!

SOCAP 2016: A New Chapter

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) is a conference series dedicated to exploring, innovating and collaborating around the ideas and solutions that can increase the flow of capital toward social good. The annual flagship event concluded last week at the historic Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, CA.

SOCAP has played a special role within the Impact Investing field since the first conference in 2008. It has continued to draw crowds of impact investors, social enterprises, field-builders and thought-leaders to discuss the latest and greatest in Impact Investing.

In recent years, particularly as the Impact Investing movement has gained serious traction, the need for SOCAP to expand beyond “the choir” to include major investors—inclusive of asset managers and owners—has never been more important. Similarly, the need to shift conversations from Impact Investing being an “emerging field” to a “growing industry” has been much needed.

We observed that shift this year, and were happy to be a part of it.

Members of the Case Foundation team travelled to SOCAP last week to engage in a global conversation around money and meaning. We left with a renewed sense of inspiration, as well as fresh ideas for collaboration. Here are a few of our key takeaways from the week:

1. We’re no longer discussing the “emerging field” of Impact Investing. It has emerged.

Since the Impact Investing field was first formalized, much of the conference has focused around persuading broad audiences to embrace it. For the impact community, it has been particularly challenging to bring along mainstream investors to explore another tool in their investment toolbox.

This year, however, numerous individuals in the opening plenaries, panels, sessions and breakouts had a different message. No longer were experts advocating for the importance of Impact Investing, but rather that Impact Investing is already here. In a time of finite resources, heightened importance around business sustainability, need for holistic risk assessment and demand for matching capital with individual values, the question of whether Impact Investing is real has been answered.

Instead, there was an intentional pivot to “how?” How do we make Impact Investing tools broadly accessible to diverse markets and audiences? How do we equip wealth advisors, CIOs and institutional investors with the knowledge, training and resources they need to explore the integration of Impact Investing into their product suite? How do fiduciaries continue to meet stringent expectations around their financial duty, while also responsibly integrating impact? The signaling here is critical, and we were pleased to see the thoughtful and creative conversations around how to address these questions.

To dig deeper, check out a recap of our session on Thursday about leveraging the advisor community as a gateway to Impact Investing.

2. Levelling the entrepreneurship playing field is a must.

Just as the rhetoric around Impact Investing has changed in recent years, so has the conversation around entrepreneurship. At SOCAP, a concentrated effort has been made to provide entrepreneurs with a chance to connect, pitch and seek mentorship. But that’s not the only way the conversation has changed; an entire track of the conference this year focused on inclusive entrepreneurship. These sessions tackled important topics of diversity and inclusion across race and gender within entrepreneurship, and brought to light both critical shortcomings and tremendous benefits from access and opportunity for all of our changemakers.

At the Case Foundation, entrepreneurship has always been a big part of how we think about our movement catalyzation efforts. For nearly 20 years, we’ve continued to believe in entrepreneurship as a driving force behind growth, development—and importantly—inclusion. To that end, SOCAP was an opportunity to give a sneak peek of our #FacesofFounders campaign with a photo and storytelling booth at the Festival Pavilion. In partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the Case Foundation’s #FacesofFounders campaign will shine a spotlight on the millions of diverse entrepreneurs in America, and reinforce the importance of an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs and supporters of entrepreneurs were invited to take free headshots, share their stories, showcase their varied backgrounds and share their journeys of learning and success.

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Check out a recording of Senior Vice President Sheila Herrling’s lively panel, Am I an Entrepreneur?, with changemakers Monique Woodard, Tony Tolentino and Kelechi Anyadiegwu.

3. Transparency is essential.

In the Impact Investing space, metrics, measurement and the data that supports these activities have observed a transformation in both necessity and importance. Often considered a cumbersome demand of early Impact Investing activity, measurement, tracking and transparency are essential in getting the field to scale.

During SOCAP, we co-hosted a standing room only session on open data for social good with ImpactSpace and SODA. Investors, entrepreneurs and field-builders crowded in to watch rapid-fire presentations from data-powered platform creators, who have all committed to innovate around the way we gather and share data. This is indicative of a growing community of data experts and stakeholders looking to advance the practice of effective collaboration through powerful, user-friendly tools.

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At the Case Foundation, our movement building efforts have included collaborative partnerships to sophisticate and streamline data accessibility, including impact measurement, investment reporting and research. Our work on the Impact Investing Network Map is one such way we’re hoping to bring in investors and organizations looking to engage in the space. Primarily, the Map will allow a visual overlay of transaction-led relationships across the Impact Investing industry and enable users to filter information by asset class, geography, and impact area. Through a partnership with ImpactSpace, and using data from CrunchBase, we’re hoping to demonstrate just where the relationships exist, tangibly bust through the myth that the field is still nascent, and work together to change how we talk about data.

Want to check out more on the Impact Investing Network Map? Sign up to be an early tester and submit your data directly to the platform!

We were thrilled to see our movement areas—Impact Investing and Inclusive Entrepreneurship—collide at SOCAP, and witness the momentum building around each of them. We look forward to continuing to forge strong partnerships in these areas, to build on these movements and reach tipping point.