A global initiative to boost funding for minority founders has launched at London Tech Week, a global platform for the tech industry.
EQL:Pledge will help business founders from underrepresented backgrounds secure funding and has the backing of high-profile women figures, including former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and broadcaster and BBC diversity executive June Sarpong.
The Pledge asks investors to allocate an amount or percentage of funding to businesses founded by entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, including women, people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with refugee status, people from a lower socioeconomic status, and people living with a disability.
Underrepresented founders will then be connected to investors via a public pitch deck library, allowing founders to explain their visions and plans.
Along with Clinton, the Pledge has the public support of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Founder Cherie Blair QC, CBE.
The Pledge, which seeks to increase representation and funding for underrepresented founders and shift the tech sector towards greater inclusion, follows clear evidence of the low state of fundraising among diverse-led businesses. In 2021, 82% of US VC dollars were awarded to male-only teams.
Despite data from the US Census Bureau, Dow Jones and the Harvard Business Review showing that female-owned firms generate higher revenues and job creation, with women being more effective in leadership roles, just 2% of VC dollars in the US went to female founders in 2021, suggesting an outdated cultural attitude about funding women-led businesses is the problem, not the state of the women-led firms themselves.
But lack of funding accessibility for women-led businesses isn’t the only problem. Further statistics from US magazine Fortune show that Black women founders took just 0.27% of all VC funding in the US and 0.24% in the UK, with less than 1% going to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Clinton said: “The glaring disparity in representation across the startup ecosystem means we all miss out on the benefits that come from diverse leadership. In this time of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to actively change the narrative. I believe that the work that EQL:Pledge is doing together with Pitch and EQL:HER will have the power to connect founders and funders and initiate this progress in a meaningful and lasting way.”
London Tech Week ambassador June Sarpong OBE said: “We know that a lack of access to capital is one of the biggest obstacles diverse entrepreneurs face in both starting and scaling up their business ideas. This is not only a loss for them but also to the venture community and society as a whole: think of the brilliant innovations that have not been realised because of existing inequities.
The EQL: Pledge seeks to address this in a meaningful way. I’m delighted to be collaborating with London Tech Week and our various partners to try and help level the funding playing field. I can’t wait to see the companies and entrepreneurs who will be able to fulfil their potential as a result of this important commitment.”
Underrepresented founders are encouraged to load their pitch decks or create one from a pre-built template to a special EQL:Pledge gallery on Pitch.com, which will be shared with VCs to amplify the founders’ discoverability and visibility.
To find out more about the Pledge, click here.