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.