While researching for this topic, I came across many blogs and publications that had great advice & solutions. But they were highly generalized and didn’t focus on the perspective of the fears that impact black founders.
“Fail fast, fail often” is the lean startup mantra that many Silicon Valley VC, Angels, and founders often seem to recite to those who might feel fear of failure. While it’s true but it overlooks and undermines a massive cultural shift from a white perspective of failing to a black perspective of failing.
In North America, the distribution of wealth is highly uneven not only among the top 10% and the rest of the people but within the average population the wealth gap between Caucasians and Black people is mind-boggling. This wealth gap in wealth is a result of a dark history that we all are aware of and the systemic issues that still exist.
What great thing you would attempt, if you knew you couldn’t fail?
All founders initially will have the same fears of starting a business regardless of race. However, the fears start to build up furthermore for Black founders because now there is a system that may not favor you, there is a bias that you are fighting against and that starts to show when black founders are significantly underfunded compared to caucasian male and female founders.
These systemic issues result in Black founders & leaders having to work twice as hard. When a black founder or a leader is in the public light they are not only representing themselves, by default, they represent their race. Which is not the fear or even a thought that caucasian founders have.
During her speech at Tuskegee University, Michelle Obama mentioned how she had to work extra hard to ensure that any mistakes or minor misrepresentation on her part will impact how black women are seen by the American people in the coming generations. Her identity as a first lady was tied to her race and for which she was judged under a microscope by media and radical white supremacy supporters.
During her speech, she said “As potentially the first African-American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations, conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others,”
“Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” she asked.
In 2008, The New Yorker portrayed Michelle Obama as a radical and a terrorist and it was her first magazine featuring.
Now if you are thinking and asking yourself, if your fears are silly or overexaggerated, the answer is no. Your fears and anxieties as a black founder or person of color are not overblown and are very real. The good thing is by addressing the elephant in the room first, we can now focus on the solutions to overcome the fears impacting the BIPOC community.
Top 5 fears that black founders face:
This feeling is amplified in black founders compared to Caucasians because when a black founder chooses to quit their job. They are not only thinking about whether their new venture will succeed or not.
They thought systemic discrimination crosses their mind in case if they decide to go back to the workforce what kind of bias and discrimination they may encounter and if they will get similar opportunities or not.
This fear is real. The strategic solution to this fear is to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship which keeping the key focus on transferable skills and learnability, in case things don’t go as planned. No one can take your skills and experience away from you and if you were strategic about your choices of acquiring the right skills in your journey. You may never have to fear financial uncertainty.