Disrupting Systemic Economic Injustice in the Startup Ecosystem, with Resilient Ventures' Tom Droege and Keith Daniel

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Disrupting Systemic Economic Injustice in the Startup Ecosystem, with Resilient Ventures' Tom Droege and Keith Daniel

Keith Daniel, co-founder and managing director of Resilient Ventures, says a “no” is just a “yes” not discovered yet.

“You have to have that mindset, and gumption, and audacity,” Keith said, “even if you're starting with nothing but a dream and maybe a few coins.”

But Keith and his co-founder, Tom Droege, know that Black founders hear “no” a lot more frequently than white founders, which is why they created Resilient Ventures: a venture capital fund dedicated to disrupting economic injustice by expanding access to capital, networks and opportunity to Black founders.

“I have more and more conversations where people of means are starting to say, ‘Hey, I recognize my privilege,’” Tom said. “What can I do to journey along with a Black founder?”

When Keith and Tom’s venture began in 2018, the new venture capitalists looked at the history of oppression of the Black community, starting with slavery, to barriers to owning land, to barriers to vote. These injustices have taken decades to overcome, and they still have an impact on startups today.

Highlighting his community's resilience through the company’s name was important to Keith.

“I just think about the legacy of my community,” Keith said. “I happen to be an African American man, born in the late 1960s and raised by parents who I watched be very resilient in their lifetime. And so, the term takes on a significant weightiness and edge and a recognition of tribute, the way I see it, for our community.”

Tom said that the system has created barriers for founders of color from the first round of funding, typically the friends and family round.

“The family, instead of investing in their business, probably sent them to college,” Tom said. “That's where the friends and family money went. So, how does a VC look at this? Well, they're gonna note that there was no friends and family round and, for most who don't understand the historical implications of why, they're just gonna ding 'em for that.”

He also noted that many VCs don’t understand how the Historically Black College and University system was created in the south.

“It was created because of Jim Crow,” Tom said. “So most casual investors, if they look at a Howard degree, a Spelman degree, a Morehouse degree on the resume, they will acquit it to a community college because they just don't know. Those are just the start of a short list of how this 400 years of injustice and systems that we created impact us here today.”

To hear the steps that Keith and Tom are taking to overcome this inequality in our startup community with Resilient Ventures, tune in to the latest episode of Founder Shares, available wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

The blog content should not be construed as legal advice.

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