U.S. President Barack Obama listens during a town hall event sponsored by LinkedIn Corp. in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Ellen Pao
January 19, 2017
IDEAS

Pao is the Chief Diversity Officer at the Kapor Center and Venture Partner at Kapor Capital.


I would love to see Barack Obama bring his remarkable empathy and courage to the tech world—to drive social change in the largest, fastest growing sector in the world. I hope he starts a $1 billion fund focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs who have not yet seen the economic and social benefits of this phenomenal global transformation.

Today, there is a gaping hole in the tech ecosystem, a vacuum with a dearth of black, Latinx, women of color and transgender entrepreneurs and employees. These groups are at a huge disadvantage; bias prevents people from hiring, funding and supporting them. ProjectDiane recently showed that only 2,200 startups are led by women—and only 88 startups are led by women of color. Obama should focus on funding them. With his influence, he could build an inclusive ecosystem that gives these teams the same network advantages and opportunities as their white male peers have under today’s almost completely homogenous, monolithic system.

This focus would bring about the biggest social impact possible. And, importantly, he could show how lucrative it would be for other capital firms to follow. As the minority becomes the majority in the United States, buying power will also shift from the majority to the minority. This will create an arbitrage opportunity: existing biases prevent investors from funding diverse teams, and the resulting homogenous teams build products that fail to address everyone’s needs. McKinsey research has also proven that diverse teams do better: they are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns.

Obama’s platform of hope, of fairness, of unity has inspired us to do better, to treat everyone with dignity and fairness. We’ve seen so many winning entrepreneurs attribute their successes to being at the intersection of opportunity and hard work. Through a venture fund, Obama could singlehandedly create opportunities for hundreds of founders and dozens of investors, most of whom are already doing the hard work. And that could transform hope into reality.

Tweet your own suggestions of what President Obama should do after he leaves office with #AfterJanuary, and read other suggestions from leaders here.

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