Back in 2014, after a 20-year career at Dell, I decided to take an early retirement and find a way to immerse myself into the startup ecosystem. I became a mentor at Capital Factory, then became an angel investor and member of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN). In 2015, I was appointed to the Entrepreneur in Residence at the UT McCombs Business School’s Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship. Suffice it to say, I attended a lot of conferences, Demo Days and had many a mentor office hours. There was this same painful question everywhere I went. “Where were the people of color and women founders or investors, etc.?” “Why were there so few of them?” If we’re not including them, we are certain to be missing out on opportunities and certainly leaving money on the table, yes?
This served as the springboard to the start of the DivInc journey! Something needed to change ASAP! Why is this so important?
According to McKinsey’s research, companies in the top quartile of gender Diversity are 15% more likely to outperform companies in the bottom quartile. Likewise, companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform companies in the bottom quartile.
Prosperity Now research found that Austin, with its growing population and strong economy, is growing in racial economic equality.
“The Other Diversity Dividend” reported that only 8% of venture capital investors are women, about 2% are Hispanic and less than 1% are black, so it’s no real surprise to find that the investments into companies with women founders is at 3% and for Black and Hispanic was a paltry 2%.
The mission and vision of DivInc is about broadening the startup ecosystem by making more authentically diverse, equitable and inclusive of people of color and women entrepreneurs. When we, as a community, do this successfully, we optimize our opportunities for economic GDP growth, we can help reduce racial/gender wealth divide, and drive greater innovation.
Preston L. James, II
At DivInc, through our three (3) month startup accelerator program specifically for underrepresented founders, we help mobilize our community through communication, collaboration and engagement. By understanding the challenges all entities of our ecosystem face, not just our founders, but also investors, and our public/private institutions, as a community we are better able to come up with real solutions that remove barriers, create thriving cultures that empower individuals and institutions to maximize innovation and global competitiveness.
To be very clear, our mission is not about displacement or replacement of anyone! This is about bringing people together to experience growth as a people and as a community! This is a mission of empowerment through collaboration! This is a mission about creating mindset shifts for generations to come! This is about creating a zero barriers community where the socio-economic benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion are truly realized.
We believe that Austin is filled with many great, intelligent, empathetic, progressive, creative and innovative people who want to do better! We have found that many really don’t know what to do! “It’s really hard” is what we hear. “Hell Yeah, it’s hard!!! The ONLY way we effect real change is together!!!” We must come to the table together, ready to make real change. It’s the only way forward! And now is the time.
Since September of 2016, DivInc has helped diverse founders launch 36 companies. We remove barriers by providing access to entrepreneurship best practices, mentorship, and social capital network. Through this program, founders gain access to opportunities that they otherwise would not have had. They accomplish in three (3) months what may take them 9-18 months to figure out. Our work goes beyond just launching companies, DivInc is “family”.
We pride ourselves in not just being a top tier accelerator program, but we are a top tier program because we are intent on being the most authentically inclusive startup accelerator in the United States.
But this is not just about DivInc, it’s about mobilizing the entire Austin startup community. It’s about all entities stepping up their game, folks getting “comfortable with being uncomfortable”, investors being intentional in expanding their deal flow pool. It’s about our institutions acknowledging and remedying their systemic biases to unleash this untapped pipeline of entrepreneurs who are people of color and women.
Where is DivInc in 5-10 years, you ask? We would love nothing more than to find that there is no longer a need for DivInc! So, come on, put us out of business in Austin by making “Austin the #1 City for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Tech”!