By Marlon Thompson, CEO of Future Capital
I’ve always viewed Black History Month as an opportunity for me to reflect on and celebrate my heritage. While this reflection and celebration is inherently personal, over the years I’ve learned that sharing pieces of how I am processing Black History Month can be a constructive, fruitful practice, which is why I’m excited for the opportunity to share why Black History Month matters to me. For me, this month provides an opportunity to:
- Celebrate the capacity of Black people to overcome struggle,
- Celebrate the strength and confidence in character that the struggle has created,
- Celebrate Africa and the role that my ancestral region has played in shaping human history (if you haven’t already, read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari), and
- Celebrate exactly where we are today, as a broader, multicultural community; because collectively, we have done some important work to include and respect the different perspectives that make up our society.
Beyond celebration, Black History Month offers an entry point and a reason to investigate, appreciate and better understand Black arts and culture, Black people, Black history and the beauty that threads each of those pieces together. It also offers us an opportunity to examine the prominence and impact of Black people in our communities and in business. I started Future Capital because I wasn’t finding anyone that was like me in my industry. The lack of Black representation in venture is heavily documented and reading study after study that highlighted the same racial gaps inspired me to take action.
According to Crunchbase, only 1 per cent of venture-backed founders in North America are Black, and just 0.2 per cent of start-ups are led by Black women. The funding that a start-up receives in its first 10 years can significantly impact its chances at long-term success. It’s no wonder that underrepresented leaders in the venture capital community have challenged this seemingly relentless tilt toward a single demographic.
Following the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, venture firms sprang into action to find ways to support Black founders. While there is still much work to be done to create equitable access to capital for entrepreneurs of colour, this wave of attention and support for minorities in venture capital has opened a unique window of opportunity to shift the demographics in a meaningful and permanent way.
As a proud member of the LGTBQ community and a visible minority, my trajectory into the space always felt implausible to me. After working with some of the top investors and founders in Canada, I realized that my indirect path in venture capital was a common one. With Future Capital, I want to improve the likelihood for minorities to succeed in the venture capital space by increasing their visibility and their capacity to make a substantial contribution.
In partnership with the Digital Technology Supercluster, Microsoft and Simon Fraser University, our Future Capital team is focusing first on boosting the representation of women in decision-making roles.
About 500 Canadian women are accessing a new educational platform, joining an emerging network of female leaders in technology and innovation, and gaining opportunities to pursue new ventures within Canada as investors, advisors and board members.
Following the success of our collaboration with the Digital Technology Supercluster community, our aim is to broaden our reach and focus on other underrepresented groups, including Black and Indigenous peoples. It’s through these communities and networks of intention that we can tap further into the wealth of undiscovered talent in our country and continue to boost diversity in leadership – a big win for consumers, entrepreneurs, investors, shareholders and our young leaders of tomorrow.