The difficulties of securing funding as a person of colour – treading a different path

Whilst I fully welcome the diversity debate and growing awareness, I don’t find the sweeping denominator ‘BAME’ particularly helpful.

The problem with BAME is that it lumps everyone who’s non-white together in one category. Never mind if they’re black of Caribbean origin, as I am, or black African (there are over 50 countries, each with different ways of life and a multitude of religions). Or Asian, which is another broadbrush term that’s part of the category. Whilst BAME may be useful shorthand for comparative statistics (white versus BAME), it’s not necessarily a helpful term for those with completely different experiences sitting within the category.

 

Being part of the ‘BAME’ community and seeing the VC funding statistics (including an increase in investments in BAME companies) certainly doesn’t reflect my experience. Securing VC funding already means walking a tricky tightrope without doing it as a black male. In my two rounds, I’ve been routinely overlooked even in the waiting room, as it was assumed I was part of the support team, rather than the founder who secured the appointment. The first hurdle to vault is not looking like the person offering a handshake.

Added to that, being a health tech co-founder, I don’t fit into the standard pigeonhole for a black male. If I’d been representing a sports brand, say, or something around music or food – all perceived as black pursuits – I’d be a more typical and potentially safe investment. VCs may have been more receptive. However, coming to them with a health product and extensive knowledge of the NHS felt less safe, less easy to understand.

Something you quickly learn is that the first funding should come from friends and family before most VC will engage or invest. That could be as much as £250,000, but even if it’s £10,000, people of colour are at an immediate disadvantage. How many people of colour would have access to that kind of money from friends and family? As a snapshot, The Colour of Money Report from the Runymede trust in April this year showed that Black African and Bangladeshi households have 10 times less wealth than White British people. Put simply, the system is rigged.

So, how should people of colour go about trying to grow their business? Well, firstly there are more companies – including Axela – who actively invest in minority groups (50% of our investments currently go that way). These are becoming more visible – seek these out. And secondly, consider other ways to get yourself on the map. If you have a good product idea, try and get your story out there. There are platforms and there are other ways to promote yourself. Since I’ve started telling my story more – as I’m doing now – I’ve had more conversations and I’ve been actively approached by people who are interested in having funding conversations. They’re coming to me.

It’s not easy – people of colour are starting from a position far behind everyone else – but don’t automatically go down the traditional route. As a black man I was always taught that nothing would come quickly or easily and it’s made me work harder and be more persistent and built up a level of resilience that has helped to drive me. I now hope I can make the journey far easier for my children behind me.

Comments

Amen true talk


What system is rigged?
Is it also rigged that people of Chinese origin earn on average 30% more than white British people and people of Indian origin earn more too?
I’ll tell you what doesn’t help is that this website draws attention to black people who have succeeded in entertainment, in sport, and in health but not in business. In doing so BM2020 is just reinforcing the stereotype of black success being specific and with the exception of your article and a piece about a black casino owner, there is really very little here about business.
Its a real shame and a huge wasted opportunity isn’t it?
Trevor Philips has an interesting piece in today’s Times that also reflects this view.


Hats off to Zuba and Mohsin Issa who just acquired Asda from Walmart for £6.8bn having started with a single petrol station 19 years ago. Their dad migrated here from India to work in the textile industry.
Just shows you that opportunity exists for all!


Stephen Sacks you clearly don’t live in the real World but your illusion of equality founded within white supremacy propaganda. Blacks have the least chance of success in life and not through lack of trying followed by the working class in this class system of rule, divide and fear. This is about blacks who have been proven to get the roughest deal and how blacks were the founders of civilisation and the first people in history (this can and has been proven yet is omitted from history). Did Zuba get brought to the West as a slave? Did the Europeans die in their millions at the hands of a savage people as Africans did?
So before you start commenting as if it is an equal non draconian ruled World take a reality check and stop being folled by propaganda and ignorance as this is a form of racism.


Post a comment