The Art of Storytelling: Sparking a Conversation on Inclusive Entrepreneurship

At SXSW 2016, the Case Foundation took the stage to engage in an important conversation on inclusive entrepreneurship. The goal was to talk openly about and spark ideas around how to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems. We had 60 minutes, an audience that wanted to be engaged (not talked at) and a serious, sometimes sensitive topic. No big deal, right?

Embracing our “be bold, take risks” attitude, we tried a somewhat unorthodox route. Inspired by NPR’s popular “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” show, we crafted a series of stories to share with the audience, who then had to decide whether each one was true or false. Each story was specially crafted to confront a myth of entrepreneurship—stories that pervade our culture, our media and our minds—head on. These are stories that we felt were important to flag because they may have the unintended consequence of keeping entrepreneurs from tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges and may be particularly holding back women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. The stories were told by some of the sector’s most inspirational changemakers, while Jean Case and I did our best impersonations of Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis, the stewards of the real show. Check it out here and play for yourself!


Not far from the slot machines and neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip, a few dozen tech companies hammer away at the future. That’s where you’ll find young African American Frederick Hutson, CEO of, a company that helps prison inmates stay connected to family by providing them with simple ways to receive hard-copy photographs and place inexpensive long-distance phone calls. Its secret sauce is a proprietary 50-state prisoner database that makes locating inmates as easy as typing their names in a search box. Hutson knows this problem first hand—he did 51 months in jail after being busted for marijuana distribution, his last “successful” venture. He put the same skills that made him a good drug dealer—high tolerance for risk and a desire to solve problems creatively—to use in starting this legitimate, innovative company. has successfully scaled from the $1 million in seed funding it originally received from top Silicon Valley players.

So what do you think? Is this story true or false? Did this former inmate have a million dollar idea? The majority of our audience thought it was true… and they were right! But there was much to this story that should have given the audience pause. Frederick’s profile certainly doesn’t fit the image or the data of who is an entrepreneur—the latest U.S. Census data shows that 79 percent of entrepreneurs in the U.S. are white and recent analysis shows that only 1 percent of venture capital funded startups have African American founders. Nor is the market Frederick disrupted an obvious one. Which is why this story is so important—it busts the myth that only well-connected, well-resourced white guys can succeed in the startup world, and it also demonstrates the existence of niche markets with great potential for investment that often go untapped. At his very core, Frederick is an entrepreneur, a problem solver, who re-applied his entrepreneurial talents from an illicit community business to a legitimate, job-creating, community-strengthening venture. It makes us think hard about the potential to drive social change by creating more onramps for diverse entrepreneurs.



In 1867, Clifford Jackson was born to Elsie and Thomas Pinkton. Elsie worked in the local salon and Thomas was a baker. They were your average white, middle class family and lived a good life in St. Louis. Young Cliff would go to the salon that his mother worked in after school and saw many women coming in and requesting help with hair loss issues—he knew there had to be a better solution than a scalp massage and a butter-based application. So Cliff did his research, toiled away in his parents’ garage and, voila, concocted his own solution. His initial investment was $1.25. The free samples flew off of the shelves at the salon where his mother worked, and soon, with more orders than he could fill himself, he started a business focused on selling “CJ’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” The picture of his smiling face, thick blond hair and pale white skin was the picture of health and happiness. Customers were hooked! The product was particularly popular with the black women in his town, and they appreciated his research and in-depth knowledge of the hair styling challenges they faced on a daily basis. The organic success of this product drew white investors in particular to this untapped market. Cliff went on to corner the black hair care product market in the U.S. and became a billionaire by the age of 57.

What do you think? Is this story true or false? Could Cliff, a young white man, corner the black women’s hair care market? Well, Kesha’s animated delivery of the story fooled our audience, despite what we all know grounds successful ventures—personal knowledge of the problem you are trying to solve and persistence (the “Eureka moment” really is myth!) in proving the profitability of untapped markets! The actual inspiration for Kesha’s story was the real life success of hair tycoon Madam CJ Walker, whose deep knowledge of the market and true grit aided her in building a client-base for her product and led her down the path of becoming the first black American female self-made millionaire. So why did our audience, and maybe you, find the Cliff story so easy to believe? Maybe it’s because Cliff’s demographic remains the dominant profile of an entrepreneur. Maybe it’s because the link between personal experience and the problem being solved still does not prevail in today’s narrative of successful entrepreneurs. Sadly, almost 150 years later, the uniqueness of Madame CJ Walker’s success as a startup founder remains true today—a recent study cites only 11 black female founders have raised more than $1 million; only 9.7 percent of venture-backed companies have female founders; and less than 1 percent have an African-American founder. Against the backdrop of data showing women-founded ventures outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse (gender and race) leadership teams provide greater returns for investors (McKinsey and Harvard Business Review), this story helps shape a conversation around why.



There is plenty of debate over whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Two prominent and opinionated researchers duke it out. Koch, president emeritus at Old Dominion University and co-author of the 2008 book Born, Not Made: The Entrepreneurial Personality, argues that many entrepreneurs are simply wired that way, giving them a natural advantage in the business world. Julian Lange of Babson College, on the other hand, says her research in the past five years indicates that exposure to the ideas and lessons of entrepreneurship can have lasting effects on students, even if they are not “natural” entrepreneurs.

Forbes 10 Under 10 competition settles the debate—entrepreneurs are born! Who can argue with 9 and 10-year olds Tracy and Jackie Tsang, whose award-winning app Binky Meets Cradle is solving one of the world’s most pressing problems—boring playdates? Or with 10-year-old Ryan Pohlson’s company, Duck Duck Duck, which is disrupting the bath time industry with rubber ducks and big data? Says Pohlson, “It’s like Uber but for Ducks.” And fan favorite, Aaron Rogier, who at five conceived of Napchat, a wildly popular app for kids to behave for their parents while also innovating on the nap concept, making it, you know, like “mobile-y and socially.” When asked what advice they’d give their younger selves, the under 10-year-olds said, “they wished they’d dropped out of school sooner and bought more bitcoins.” After all, “It’s tough to stay relevant in the Valley past a certain age,” one kid remarked.

When it comes to Forbes 10 under 10, what do you think? Is this story true or false? Our audience had a harder time deciding and the vote was fairly divided. The correct answer was false, built around both a very funny video and the very real academic debate between Koch and Lange (and many others) on whether entrepreneurs are born or nurtured. I suspect the divided vote is emblematic of two things: (1) the continued impression that startups are purely a young person’s game, with particular glorification around college dropouts making it big—Bill Gates, Rachael Ray, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Mary Kay Ash, Jack Dorsey; and, (2) an honest debate with little data to prove whether entrepreneurs are born that way, or whether many have the innate potential to create and drive businesses, but without nurturing of that potential they move on to other things.

This story helped us and the audience confront the role myths might be playing in leaving teams of entrepreneurs on the sidelines—particularly women and entrepreneurs of color. For example, the actual average age of today’s startup founders is 40. If people knew that, would they drop out of school so fast? Or what if we had entrepreneurial talent scouts like we do for sports and music—would that make a difference? (Check out Gallup’s entrepreneurial talent finder.) And is there an important role for startups dedicated exclusively to women or entrepreneurs of color to help level the playing field? Regardless of where you sit in this debate, there seems to be a widely shared support for exposing youth early to entrepreneurship as a life and career path, as well as encouraging mainstream media to showcase more diverse entrepreneurs as role models. Regardless of nature or nurture, the quote, “you can’t be what you can’t see” captured the audience.



Picture this! It’s a beautiful sunny day in Palo Alto in April 2012. I am over the moon excited to pitch my new idea—CODE2040. I am bouncing on my toes to diffuse my nerves as I wait for my turn to try to win $80,000 in support for my work. I knew CODE2040 was a great idea and I knew that if we could execute well, it was going to change people, communities and industries for the better. I mean, there was such an obvious market for our business—addressing the problem of inequality of opportunity for talented entrepreneurs who don’t have access to the social networks, and family and friends startup capital, that other entrepreneurs can tap into. The judges would obviously understand this, and see past the fact that we only had two months of operations under our belts. No impact data. All I needed to do was convince them that our idea was a great idea! I got this! My materials are great! I walk on stage. I look at those judges standing between me and the $80,000 that is going to launch CODE2040.

And, I choke. I can’t find my words. I fumble through the material, reading half of it off my slide notes. When it was time for Q&A, I was shaking with nerves, and when one of the judges, a white male professor with no knowledge of my market or the community we hoped to serve, became increasingly belligerent, insisting that the concept had no legs and we were seeing problems where there were none, I was stunned to speechlessness. I failed. I did not walk away with the $80,000 prize. And that day, the best pitch did indeed win, but it was not the best idea of all those pitched. As crushed as I was to lose in 2012, I knew that this would be the first of many defeats and no’s, and that I needed to use the experience to fail forward, learn from my mistakes, and go back the next year with a pitch that took into account the skeptics. One year later, picture this! A beautiful sunny day in Palo Alto and I am bouncing on my toes again outside the very same room. I pitch. I answer questions. And I win! And that early money paved the way for me to go on to raise about $10M in support for CODE2040 to date.

Was Laura’s pitch the real deal or was her story made up? If you thought her story was true, you were right! Thankfully, Laura did win that second pitch and CODE2040 exists today. The reality of Laura’s story though shows how pitch competitions can be flawed. Often times the best idea is not the winning idea and vice versa. For women in particular, the pitch competition model can be extremely disadvantageous. While certainly not the case for all women, studies have shown that women tend to be less willing to assume risks that may accompany failure (Koellinger et al., 2008; Minniti, 2010). Could a pitch competition be that detrimental to a business? It can be when the reality is that women are twice as likely as men to shut down their businesses because of lack of capital—capital that may be coming from a singular source, pitch competitions. As if the cards weren’t stacked against women enough, a recent study showed that attractive men are most likely to win pitch competitions (even when the same pitch is delivered by a woman)!

So how did you do?

Could you tell fact from fiction? More importantly, did reading these stories help you better understand the challenges women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color face in the startup world and why it’s vitally important that we work together to create change? We challenged the audience at SXSW and now challenge you, our readers, to help usher in meaningful change through your own channels—change that involves building stronger entrepreneurial ecosystems, unlocking venture capital funding opportunities, helping address policy issues and disrupting the dominant narratives about entrepreneurship so that the stories reflect more diversity.

Want to read more myths? Check out our ongoing blog series.

Do you have your own true/false story that you want to share with us? Tweet your headline to us @CaseFoundation using the hashtag #Ent4All and we might profile your story next!

Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship

Throughout our nation’s history we have celebrated entrepreneurship as a key to unlocking economic and technologic advancement, seeing ourselves as a country of innovators, discoverers and inventors. And each February we honor the integral role that black history has played in building and strengthening our nation. This week, I am thrilled to be in Miami for Black Tech Week and the launch of our partner PowerMoves’ recent expansion into the region. I can’t think of a better way to honor the role that entrepreneurs of color have played in making America the greatest “startup” ever!

But here’s the rub: when we talk about startups and entrepreneurship today, why is it that we are so hard-pressed to name entrepreneurs of color that made history and shaped our collective future? Why does our collective conscience go to equating “entrepreneur” with a white guy in a hoodie, toiling away alone in his garage, until he has a Eureka moment that changes life as we know it? Myths of the Entrepreneur persist and are perhaps disproportionately holding back entrepreneurs of color when our nation needs them most.

Let’s be reminded of some of the greatest innovations of our time, all led by entrepreneurs of color:

  • The carbon-filament light bulb invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881. Thomas Edison gets all the glow (no pun intended), but Latimer’s filament made it cheaper, more efficient and, therefore, more practical and profitable.
  • The gas mask invented by Garrett A. Morgan, first used in 1916.
  • Blood banks, made possible by the invention of Dr. Charles Richard Drew in 1940, which allowed plasma to be dehydrated and countless lives saved since.
  • Refrigerators, invented by Frederick M. Jones in 1940, modernized farming and shipping, and led to the introduction of modern-day supermarkets.
  • The automatic oil cup for train parts, invented by Elijah McCoy; his design was so superior to the many knock-offs that engineers ordering them asked for “The Real McCoy” (ok – really, how many of you knew that’s where that term came from?!)
  • The potato chip! Invented by George Crum in 1853, the potato chip industry became a billion dollar business, creating a massive amount of jobs and certainly changed my world.

And let’s highlight some modern-day entrepreneurs of color showcasing the power and potential of diversifying the current state of our nation’s entrepreneurship:

  • Publisher John H. Johnson who started both the Ebony and Jet brands and the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400 list.
  • Financier Melody Hobson of Ariel Investments, which today is the largest minority owned investment firm in the world with nearly $11 billion in assets.
  • Hotelier and sports team owner Sheila Johnson, who was co-founder of BET and the first African American female billionaire.
  • Entrepreneur and investor Daymond John who is founder and CEO of FUBU and a judge on the hit show Shark Tank on ABC.
  • CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd of ACT-1 Group, the nation’s largest black female owned business with more than $1.4 billion in revenue.
  • Earl Robinson, CEO of PowerMoves (disclosure: PowerMoves is a grantee of the Case Foundation), which has backed 100 minority-founded companies, raising $27 million in venture capital and creating more than 350 jobs.
  • Kesha Cash, founder of Impact America, investing in underserved communities.
  • And venture capitalist Erik Moore with five exits under his belt and dozens of investments in companies like

So much history to celebrate. So much to be inspired by. And so much more to do to recognize and realize the full innovation potential of America by leveling the entrepreneurship playing field for all. Connecting social and financial capital to women and entrepreneurs of color who continue to be under-represented and whose success will serve as inspiration to a whole new set of young dreamers looking for role models to whom they can relate. Sadly, today only 3% of venture-backed companies have female CEOs and only 1% have founders of color; Project Diane’s report on the success of African American women in tech is best summarized by Wired as “embarrassing.” Making entrepreneurship more inclusive isn’t about charity or political correctness; it’s about sound business. Research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. And in many respects, it’s about restoring the American dream.

The talent, the companies and the opportunities to level the playing field are out there. There just needs to be more intentionality in the discovery and sourcing process. Over the last two days, I’ve seen some of our future nation shapers on stage at PowerMoves Miami launch. Companies like Neurtronic Perpetual Innovations, LISNR, VOO Media Group and Kairos have all each raised more than $5 million with disruptive ideas. Watch out for Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform, who today won the Knight Foundation’s Angel Round Pitch Competition, which I had the honor of judging. And please, let’s model the secret sauce of PowerMoves in sourcing successful black female founders – of the 11 (yes, only 11!) black female founders that have raised more than $1 million in outside investment, four of them — Lisa Dyson of Kiverdi, Kellee James of Mercaris, Cheryl Contee of and Jewel Burks of Partpic (disclosure: Partpic is an investment of our founder Steve Case) — are alumna of the PowerMoves model, collectively raising nearly $50 million in capital.

Join us in our crusade to diversify the face of entrepreneurship. Tell us which entrepreneurs of color are on your radar and what’s standing in the way of unleashing their full potential. Share with us on Twitter at @CaseFoundation using #Ent4All.

The Myth of Combat

The Myth of Combat is the third post in the Case Foundation’s Myth of the Entrepreneur series. This series is intended to intentionally examine, and change, the stories our culture tells about entrepreneurship. For more information on the Case Foundation’s approach to the Myth series and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, please check out our introductory piece. We encourage you to join the conversation using #Ent4All on Twitter.

The Myth of the Entrepreneur series is based on research conducted by Michael Chodos, former fellow with the Case Foundation and currently at the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University, with contributions from Aaron Coleman, former Case Foundation intern.

There’s no denying the natural draw of drama that comes from a good battle, whether in a sport arena, a courtroom or a theatrical stage — we love to see truth, virtue and value emerge from a defining moment of clash and competition. Think: Monday Night Football, Law & Order, Game of Thrones, The Voice, Hamilton.

So, it’s not entirely surprising that the act of proving worth through this type of “trial by combat” has also become prevalent in the entrepreneurial narrative — largely in the form of the ubiquitous pitch competition. Whether part of mainstream pop culture or down the street at our local accelerator, the dozens of pitch competitions that take place every day deliver one clear message: an entrepreneur’s true worth — and a venture’s true likelihood of success — is proven by how they perform at the pitch competition.

The ultimate example of this narrative plays out on the ever-popular reality TV show, Shark Tank. Contestant entrepreneurs appear in front of world-famous investors who hold the promise of tens of thousands or even a couple million in start-up money. They get the added benefit of face time in front of an at-home audience of nearly 10 million, and if your business and pitch sound right — and you can handle the volley of difficult “gotcha” questions from the investors — you can close a deal right then and there and the audience is left thinking your success is guaranteed.

But in reality, “winning” a pitch competition itself is a small and rare moment in most entrepreneurs’ journeys, and an over-celebration of pitch events runs the risk of perpetuating the myth that it is the only pathway to building a successful, sustainable business. Stories of winning pitch competitions do not ground the success narratives of Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Lucy Peng or Steve Jobs. In fact, many of today’s most celebrated entrepreneurs would probably tell you that they would likely have lost a pitch competition in the earliest days of their companies (check out Brian Chesky’s Medium post on the many rejections he received on early pitches to raise money for AirBnB).

Building, scaling and sustaining a new business requires more than a “winning” pitch. It requires an entire support system — founders, investors, policymakers, consumers and many others — who can offer the long-term support of the entrepreneur’s dogged pursuit to solve the one problem identified as worthy of immense investments of their own time and treasure. Ecosystem builders like Mara Mentors, Forward Cities, PowerMoves and 1776 understand this; they see the pitch and everything else. For those who have concerns that the pitch competition — and the myth that it is the only path to successfully starting a business — may be disadvantaging women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, innovations on the model are cropping up. Village Capital has introduced a “peer selection model,” and Springboard Enterprises has its “Dolphin Tank” which, in their words “isn’t… a competition for the best idea, it’s about channeling the expertise of the people in the room to provide connections and advice to help entrepreneurs take the next step.” And crowdfunding platforms are proving to be a more successful onramp for women and minority entrepreneurs. Groups and models like these provide entrepreneurs with access to the collaborative networks and connections they’ll need to scale and solve meaningful problems.

Wins and losses, and the learning that comes from both, are inevitable in entrepreneurship. No doubt pitch competitions can be great forums for showcasing entrepreneurial talent, surfacing new ideas, helping entrepreneurs hone in on their value proposition and generating feedback critical to the constant iteration that is part of building a business — and platforms like Shark Tank are tremendously helpful in raising the profile of entrepreneurs and innovators. My colleague Sheila Herrling and I also recently defended the role of pitch competitions in the nonprofit sector.

But as we seek to broaden the narrative around entrepreneurship it is important that we see beyond the excitement and drama that comes from a no holds barred “business death-match,” to the full scope of developing, nurturing and growing a diverse set of entrepreneurs leading sustainable businesses.

Join the conversation on Twitter at #Ent4All and be sure to check out the full Myth of the Entrepreneur series!

The Myth of the Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is the bedrock of our country’s economy. In the US, fast-growing, innovation-driven startups represent only two to three percent of all businesses, but they create almost all of the revenue growth in our economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a recent three-year period 34 percent of all private sector jobs were created by 80,000 high-growth businesses. Beyond the creation of jobs and wealth, entrepreneurship serves perhaps an even more essential function to Americans—it embodies our shared belief in limitless individual opportunity. Our Chairman, Steve Case, often reminds us that America itself represents one of the greatest startup ventures ever. Deeply ingrained in America’s startup business proposition was the belief that any individual—no matter their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic background or geographic location—could bring their entrepreneurial talents to building the kinds of strong and diverse businesses and communities we need to keep our nation prosperous.

Yet today the American dream that any individual has the power to change his or her own trajectory, and in doing so be a part of driving our nation’s entrepreneurship and innovation legacy forward, is fading. The vast majority of today’s celebrated startups continue to be founded and funded by white, well-educated, well-networked males. Women are at the helm of 30 percent of all businesses in the US, and these businesses are leading the way in terms of hiring and growth. However, startups with women CEOs still receive only three percent of venture capital funding. Minority-owned businesses are growing at a faster clip than non-minority owned businesses, but are receiving an even smaller fraction of investments.

Why is that? It’s not that high-potential, high-performance companies founded by women and entrepreneurs of color don’t exist—check out the amazing talent featured at the first ever White House Demo Day this summer. It’s not that performance data isn’t on their side—women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse executive teams (gender and race) are more likely to have higher financial returns. It might be that unconscious bias permeates—bosses tend to hire people that look like they do, think like they do and come from similar experiences that they do. Investors tend to do the same. Sadly, it might be that men are perceived as “more persuasive” pitchers. Whatever the reasons, it can’t be that leaving half the team on the sidelines is a winning game plan.

In an effort to level the playing field and leverage the maximum potential of America’s entrepreneurial talent, earlier this year the Case Foundation launched a new effort to catalyze a movement around Inclusive Entrepreneurship. We have been inspired by the data that suggest diversifying our entrepreneurial ecosystem is good for business and good for the world. We have been inspired by early pioneers like Forward Cities, PowerMoves and JumpStart, Inc., who have been leading the way in engaging, networking and financing diverse entrepreneurs in their communities. And we have been exceedingly curious about the extent to which the American culture and mythology surrounding entrepreneurship, perpetuated by the media, may be impeding the success of women and entrepreneurs of color.

Unbundling The Myth of the Entrepreneur

Today, when you look at the most highly celebrated entrepreneurs—or look at how entrepreneurs are depicted in pop culture—it’s not exactly a picture of diversity. And typically the story of the entrepreneur casts main characters that appear to be singularly heroic, toiling away in garages and labs until, suddenly, a Eureka Moment! Culture begets behavior, and behavior creates outcomes. So if we want to change outcomes by expanding access to entrepreneurship, we must start with what informs our culture of entrepreneurship: We must very intentionally examine, and change, the stories we tell.

In conjunction with National Entrepreneurship Month and Global Entrepreneurship Week, we are doing our small part to start changing the narrative by launching a new blog series called The Myth of the Entrepreneur. Through this series we will take a critical look at the common stories told in startup culture. We want to distinguish between what stories should be embraced and what stories are holding us back. And to suggest it’s time to reboot and re-focus the narrative on entrepreneurship, and create a message of inspiration and aspiration grounded in inclusivity. The next era of entrepreneurship is about leveling the playing field, expanding participation and scaling the networks of social, financial and inspirational capital that provide the foundation for successful startups and scalable business. The new paradigm of entrepreneurship will replace the myth of isolated geniuses with teams of diverse problem-solvers working hard and collectively to build and scale businesses that make life better for all, not just more convenient for an elite few.

If we can debunk these long-standing and highly influential myths, perhaps we can, together, put a new “face” on today’s entrepreneur. We hope you will join us on this journey—offer up your thoughts, inspiration and new era entrepreneurs you admire on twitter using the hashtag #Ent4All. Check back here next week to learn the truth about one of the most infamous myths of entrepreneurship today—The Myth of Isolation.

Powering Entrepreneurship with Inclusion

At the Case Foundation, we believe that entrepreneurship is powerful driver of innovation, economic growth, job creation, and solutions to big, intractable problems at a global and local scale. But as we look at the increasing inequality – economic and digital divides – we have begun to explore how to tap into the fuller entrepreneurial potential of communities and countries – all backgrounds and all locations. We’ve also begun to explore the notion of catalyzing a movement in inclusive entrepreneurship built upon the theory of change that diversity breeds innovation and innovation breeds business (financial and social) success. There are a lot of ways to define “inclusive” entrepreneurship. To us, it means getting beyond those who traditionally have easier access to entrepreneurship and thinking about how to lift up—women- and minority-owned businesses, businesses that are funding good jobs for the community, and social enterprises that are committed to financial and social returns.

As part of our exploration phase, the Case Foundation team, led by our CEO Jean Case, returned to New Orleans to dive deeper into the entrepreneurship ecosystem there. Through our work with the collective impact organization, Forward Cities, we have been fortunate enough to meet entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders in New Orleans, Durham, Detroit and Cleveland who are committed to utilizing entrepreneurship to build their economies. Our team has spent the past six months listening and learning about the concept of Inclusive Entrepreneurship and we have emerged from this period of exploration even more convinced of the power of inclusion.

Our time in New Orleans was spent learning about the rebuilding of the city as we approach the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and meeting with on-the-ground ecosystem builders who are using the power of inclusivity to create thriving entrepreneurship communities.

We want to extend a warm thank you to our partners on the ground in New Orleans who shared their approaches to inclusive entrepreneurship and walked us through their city and their work while we were there. Accelerators like PowerMoves and Propeller, along with ecosystem builders like Greater New Orleans, Inc., and advocates like former New Orleans Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer have seen the value in democratizing entrepreneurship and are actively creating a more inclusive New Orleans.Photo May 08, 11 09 39 AM

And we ended our visit with a full house at NoBic, as part of the Rise of the Rest road trip, featuring the importance of diversity and inclusion in rebuilding and growing New Orleans through entrepreneurship. Jean Case led a dynamic conversation with star innovator Beth Galante and ecosystem builders Earl Robinson and Tim Williamson. It is leaders like these who are breaking down barriers and bringing the power of inclusivity to the forefront of the New Orleans entrepreneurship landscape.

And how wonderful to see the power of inclusive entrepreneurship pay off, with PowerMoves-backed entrepreneur Crystal McDonald and her company GoToInterview, win the Rise of the Rest pitch competition and a $100,000 investment.

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The conversation on diversity and inclusion continues to grow. It is clear that if we want to build up our cities and grow our economies, we need to follow in New Orleans’ footsteps and level the playing field to bring more people to the table and maximize the full potential of local, national and global talent to building the companies that are going to change the world.