Mahmee founder calls on Silicon Valley investors to be more courageous

Melissa Hanna labored onerous to be ready to sit throughout the desk from a few of Silicon Valley’s prime investors. However, she did not suppose she would be known as “spunky” and “cute” — particularly not whereas pitching her all-in-one platform for managing care of pregnant girls and youngsters, Mahmee. But she did.

“One of the challenges underrepresented founders, like myself, are facing today is we don’t have the typical backgrounds compared with the previous generation of founders in Silicon Valley,” she instructed Business Insider. “We don’t fit in to the San Francisco, Palo Alto white boys club.”

It ought to come as no shock white males obtain the majority of enterprise funding. Investors are more possible to give capital to those that resemble them — on paper and in particular person. And regardless that firms constructed by black girls generate hundreds of thousands of , they obtain zero.0006% of enterprise capital, in accordance to Project Diane. However, statistics like this are usually not stopping founders like Hanna.

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Held to a better normal

Hanna based Mahmee in Los Angeles along with her mom, Linda Hanna, in 2014 once they noticed the disconnect between giant healthcare suppliers and the networks of impartial maternity care professionals who are usually not docs, like nutritionists or lactation specialists.

In 2015, Mahmee participated within the early-stage enterprise fund and seed accelerator, 500 Startups, whereas Hanna and her group constructed out their all-in-one platform, which connects healthcare programs with maternity consultants. Soon, she was in fundraising mode: face-to-face with high-level enterprise companies.

But after leaving one assembly a number of years in the past, she felt distraught. In a room filled with males, one senior investor started questioning her regulation diploma as a result of he had by no means heard of Southwestern University — the personal school in Georgetown, Texas the place Hanna obtained a full scholarship.

“He made it difficult for me to pitch to the rest of the group, and the other men, because he was older, they didn’t say anything or stop it from happening,” she stated.

In a December 2018 research by Morgan Stanley, investors who had been surveyed did “not see the significant funding imbalance” for girls founders regardless of making “imbalanced investment decisions” and holding minorities to increased requirements.

Calling courageous investors

The variety of black girls entrepreneurs is doubling annually, however the share of enterprise capital raised is virtually non-existent. Of the $424.7 billion of funding raised since 2009, solely $289 million went to black girls.

This kind of transactional inequality amongst capital gatekeepers towards minority entrepreneurs is what Hanna known as a two-way avenue.

“We can work on coaching more people of color into STEM, we can create more programs that help early-stage founders grow their businesses, we can do all these great things to help the founders and their companies,” stated Hanna in an interview with Business Insider. “But it’s also about the investors being courageous enough to take risks and invest in people who are not like them.”

More cash than ever earlier than goes into growing the variety of girls of coloration within the digital house with organizations like Black Girls Code and Google’s Women Techmakers. But growing the variety of minority girls within the tech pipeline is simply a part of the equation, tackling hypocritical investors is the opposite half — one thing “we can’t change on our own,” Hanna stated.

“I see people that tout themselves, and are very proud to say they support diversity and inclusion and that they are interested in taking meetings with non-typical founders,” stated Hanna. “That’s great. But meetings aren’t funding. People take meetings all day, they don’t write a check.”

Mahmee plans to increase into Pittsburgh in 2019, the place it should start to undertake the town’s rising toddler mortality charges.

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