S2E8: The Reality of Funding for Minority Entrepreneurs 

S2E8: The Reality of Funding for Minority Entrepreneurs 


It costs a lot of money to get a business started & running, and finding & seeking investment as an entrepreneur is already very time consuming and difficult for young entrepreneurs. In this episode, we will be getting to the scariest apart of the entrepreneurship journey, and talk the realities of those funding barriers and opportunities with a special emphasis on venture capital. Our guests talking all things VC, funding, and uplifting minority entrepreneurs are Jasmine Neal, co-founder of Tune, and Christie Pitts, general partner of Backstage Capital. 

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This episode was produced by Global Thinking Foundation USA and Hangar Studios.

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Mary: (00:44)
Hi there lovely money people, and welcome back to Your World, Your Money. This week, we will continue to dive into our entrepreneurship series and get into the real truth, reality, and logistics of starting up a startup. We will be talking funding and funding barriers, especially for minority entrepreneurs. Diving into one particular type of funding VC funding - that's venture capital funding, which we all hear about in the news and associated with some really big names and businesses, but we don't ever really get to dive into what VC funding means for entrepreneurs. So in this episode, we have two amazing guests joining me to explain some of that news and also chat about all things funding and how to actually get your business started.

Mary: (01:34)
Bringing a founder's perspective to this conversation is Jasmine Neal, a co-founder of Tune. Tune is a sound and vibration technology startup for mental wellness and physical recovery, where her day-to-day responsibilities are centered around product development, growth strategy, and operations. Staying true to her passion for health and wellness, she has led conversations centered around self-awareness and meditation for Declare (acquired by Luminary), Carta's Table Stakes Conference, The Tribe, Atelier Nubio in Paris, France, and more. Bringing an investor's perspective today is Christie Pitts, an experienced early-stage investor, and general partner at Backstage Capital, where she evaluates new companies for investment and supports the portfolio. In her role at Backstage, Christie builds and leads the Backstage Accelerator program with a global cohort in London, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to women, people of color, and LGBTQ plus founders. Other VCs see this as a pipeline problem, but at Backstage, they see it as the biggest opportunity in investment. Backstage Capital has invested in more than 170 companies led by underrepresented founders. Tell me, that's not incredible. Let's head over to the episode and dive in with Jasmine and Christie. It's so lovely to have both of you with us today. Before we dive into funding and funding barriers, tell us a little bit about your story and what you do. Christie, do you want to kick us off?

Christie: (03:19)
Sure. So I'm a general partner at backstage capital, which is a venture capital firm targeted at investing in companies led by what we call underestimated founders, women, people of color, and LGBTQ founders. We started in 2015 when our founder and managing partner Arlan Hamilton received our first investment check and began making investments of her own. And to date, we've invested in over 170 companies all led by underestimated founders. So I would say we're different from other VC firms in that we're very intentional about backing underrepresented and underestimated founders. And we're also very intentional about these investments for a financial return. And I think that that sets us apart because we do believe that our work has impact, but beyond the impact, we also expect to see great financial returns from our companies that we invest in and therefore should be able to provide great returns back to our investors.

Mary: (04:15)
And how did you get started into this world? Like, did you stumble into it? Are you passionate about it? Like what was it about this world that brought you to it?

Christie: (04:24)
Yeah, so I started working with startups quite some time ago, almost 10 years ago. I was working for a big company called Verizon. So you probably know it, it's a big phone company. I've worked there for a long time. So I actually started as like a part-time customer service rep in a store way back in the day, like go way back. Think about one of your very first phones, like maybe a flip phone with a camera on it. And that was around the time when I started, but I was so fortunate because I love the mobile industry and that timing couldn't have been better because it was really when like 3G was just getting started and then 4G came out and then iPhone and all of these opportunities were just exploding. And so it was great because as a young person in the industry, I was afforded the opportunity to grow with the company as it grew as well. And so ultimately, long story short, I ended up leaving Verizon from the venture group. So Verizon has a corporate venture capital arm called Verizon Ventures. At the time I was there, we were deploying about a hundred million dollars a year. And I was actually looking for somebody with a thesis-like Arlan had with backstage while I was at Verizon. I thought that there was a strategic element because I knew from the work that I had done with the company before that it was really important to Verizon, to diversify our customer base and our product offerings and the Verizon ventures team. Our work there was to really help the company move into adjacent businesses and into strategic areas. And so I thought how much more strategic could it be to work with diverse founders? When I knew that that was a priority for the company. And so that was actually the context in which I originally met Arlyn was through working at Verizon ventures and trying to get Verizon and backstage to work together. And then eventually I was able to move to backstage and start investing full-time over here.

Mary: (06:05)
You are so excited to work. I love hearing that. Jas, do want to jump in and tell us about you?

Jasmine: (06:10)
Yeah, sure. So my journey into health and wellness was definitely more intentional than my journey into technology, but a big moment in my life was when I was doing my yoga teacher training and it would start at 8:00 AM and end at 8:00 PM every day. And we were forced to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and forced to meditate for 20 minutes in the evening. And after you do it for about two to three weeks straight, you realize the impact that meditation has on the mind and the body. But what I realized was that I never would have been integrated in health and wellness. Had I not been forced to meditate every day. And I think most people don't have that luxury or the discipline to sit themselves down and force themselves to meditate for 15 or 20 minutes every day. So the idea for Tune was really exciting for me. And I can go back into how my co-founder Kyle and I met in the beginning because it was a way that people could understand or see that space of meditation without having to necessarily have a daily 15 or 20-minute practice. So Tune essentially what it is. It's a 15 minute sound and vibration experience. So what we do is we've leveraged vibroacoustic technology. So you lay on a tune bed that we've created, and you're going to feel vibrations that correspond to the music that you're hearing through the headphones. And all we want people to do is understand what it's like to be an estate that isn't stressful and anxious, which unfortunately is the norm, especially living in New York City, just like the car honk. It will send me into a little panic attack, but that's the goal.

Jasmine: (07:48)
We just think that everyone deserves the accessibility or everyone has the right to feel well. And we wanted to change the wellness space. So that way it was affordable. So your first sessions, $10, $20 after that, that was just really important for us to give access to health and wellness for everyday humans. There's two of us. So my co-founder and I, Kyle and myself, we're very different. I'm black, she's white, she's 10 years older than me. Like I know people can't see me. So, and she's also a woman, her name's Kyle. So people assume she's a man, but we're very different. And I think about it all the time, where had it been just me and the journey. I think the funding experience would be completely different. So she is definitely well connected. She was born and raised New Yorker. So she had access to things that I never would have been able to have access by myself. So we're self-funded right now, we just opened up our seed round, which we're raising 2 million for. And that's, yes, that's such a journey. We've gotten some nos already, but that's the name of the game, not some, I think it's important to consider the fact that the reality is if it was just myself or a team of only black founders, uh, without that network, it probably would be a very different experience.

Mary: (09:07)
But starting from the very beginning - for a lot of entrepreneurs, they don't have a lot of exposure or they don't have a lot of knowledge. Most, especially in our experience with minority entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, they just don't have that exposure or that knowledge. So from both the founders perspective and what you've been able to perceive and experience, and also from the investors perspective, let's kind of dive in a little bit to what are some of the initial, like logistics and steps and kind of the tangibles around it that then leads to some of these barriers or lead to some of these things that make it more difficult for minority entrepreneurs or solopreneurs.

Jasmine: (09:50)
Yeah, I think from my experience, the biggest hurdle is access to the network. And it kind of even reminded me of Arlan's story. You know, someone took a chance on her and wrote her first check, and then they opened up doors that then led to Backstage Capital. And I think for a lot of minority founders, you kind of need, or the story tends to be someone took a chance on you and you could even say, my co-founder took a chance on me. You know, she could have chosen someone else to be her co-founder. And it just so happened that it worked that way. We were both really passionate about it and we worked really well together. Um, but I think the story often is for a lot of minority founders, is it requires someone to take a chance on you to open up that world that you otherwise don't have access to.

Christie: (10:34)
Yeah, I agree with that. And I think that network is an under highlighted part of fundraising because there are so many founders who are able to raise quickly and raise large amounts. And oftentimes they may be pre-product or really very early in their timeline. And yet they're still able to close these fundraisers. And then when underrepresented founders see that it can be so frustrating because it's like I've been working on this for years. I have a product to market, I have revenue, I have validation, and yet I'm really struggling with fundraising. Whereas I see, I like go on tech crunch and I see these white guys and they just raised 3 million and they're nowhere near where I am. But I think that beyond the obvious, like systemic racism and sexism and oppression that exists in the industry, something that people really don't see is how much these relationships are a part of these fundraising decisions. And for so many investors, they don't take cold intros. They only invest in people that they already know or that know somebody that they already know. So they're vetting people through their existing relationships and they are coming from very small circle of places. So over 40% of investors went to Harvard and Stanford. I did not go to Harvard or Stanford by the way. There's no shade. We have a partner on our team. Her name is Brittany Davis who went to Harvard business school for her MBA. It's a great school. The challenge is that if you only will meet with founders or know investors who are in those same circles, then you're really closing yourself off to so much opportunity. And there's kind of like two pieces of this one is who, you know, but then also the other pieces like lingo and jargon. And so I think that's another thing that really works against founders is when they get into a conversation and they're not speaking the language quote, unquote, that the investor speaks, then, then it makes them seem like another. Right. And it really takes a conversation in a negative direction. Whereas if you're pre-vetted, if you've been invested in by your investors, good friend, that they always go on vacation together and you worked at a startup and you have the background, then it's a much easier, faster conversation.

Mary: (12:52)
So Christie, you actually created a beautiful segway for me with something you mentioned. And I want to talk about what are some of these misunderstandings or misconceptions. And I kind of want to talk about them on both sides. So like the ones that can be really worrisome or detrimental or the others is like, that's actually great. Use that to your advantage.

Jasmine: (13:53)
I think from a founder's standpoint, a huge misconception that I had was that when you meet an investor, you only need one time to meet them. And then it's a quick yes or no. And I quickly realized like you said, Christie, it's, relationship-based, especially in the beginning because they're investing in you, you know, like you are pretty much the entire company. So what they're trying to understand is, you know, not only your work ethic, but how, what's your thought process like, and how much grit do you have? So, and that's hard to pick up on, on a single conversation or with a pitch deck. So that was something that was really interesting for me, where I realized that it's not what I forgot who said it, but someone said, um, aim for multiple dots and align versus one single dot. And from there, the investor can really understand you. And I think another common misconception about raising money from a founder standpoint is money doesn't solve problems. I think, oh, I hear a lot of time friends who want to raise money. Like I have this issue and I just need more money. And I realized it does not solve the issue that you think you might have or that you currently have. So that's just something to consider as well. I think money is great to accelerate growth, but that doesn't necessarily solve a problem that you might have.

Christie: (15:11)
Yeah. I would actually piggyback on that. I recently had a tweet kind of go a little bit viral, which is that I said that fundraising is not an accomplishment. And I got a lot of feedback from people on this because especially for underrepresented founders is such a slog and it's so hard to fundraise, that I think some people felt like I was diminishing the fact that like once they were, they did successfully fundraise, like the effort that it took for them to do, but that's not the case. I think what the point that I'm trying to make is that there's fundraising itself like a successful fundraiser celebrated, but in and of itself, it doesn't really mean anything except that you have gained some capital in now you have more work to do. And it's champagne problems, right? Like if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in your bank account, like don't we all want those problems? But actually, in order to get that money, you did have to exchange some of the equity in your company. So now you have exchanged ownership of your company, which is a really important detail that I don't, I'm not sure that founders totally understand before moving through the process. And also it often starts you on this track of continuing to fundraise. So you've fundraised once and now you have to do it again and you have to do it again. And each time you have to reach more and more aggressive milestones. And so it definitely puts your company on a track. That's different than if you were to grow from example from your customer's revenue.

Mary: (16:32)
Oh, Christie. You actually mentioned something that I'd love to hear more from you about. So you mentioned entrepreneurs, not necessarily understanding what it means to give up part of ownership of the company. What other things do you wish more entrepreneurs knew coming in or that they'd done the deep dives on to kind of understand before they came to you?

Christie: (16:55)
Understanding giving up ownership is kind of impossible to understand in a way it's almost like when you're engaged before you get married and you're like, oh yeah, marriage is a commitment, but it's going to be totally cool. And then like, I've been married for four years, and marriage is a long-term relationship, right? You have ebbs and flows. And there is a lot of analogy in the fundraising world, but like investing is like dating and I'm not really totally into those analogies, but there is something to be said for the long-term commitment of bringing on an investor, because even if it's an angel. So even if it's your very first check into the company and maybe they invested $10,000 or $15,000, so it's a small check. You most likely will have that person on your cap table until you exit. And so on average, that's a seven-year timeframe. And it's really hard to understand today what your priorities will be seven years from now. And also what their priorities might be like right now, 10,000 might be nothing for them five years from now. They might be in a totally different financial situation and maybe asking you where's my return, where's my return. So I think the thing is that there was a lot of really good materials out there from founders who have been through it and have had rough experiences with investors who have tried to take control of their companies who have tried to fire founders who have not acted ethically or in their best interest. And unfortunately, once they're on the cap table, it's nearly, it's very, very tough to get them off of the cap table.

Mary: (18:20)
And for our new entrepreneurs, what's a cap table?

Christie: (18:23)
Cap table. I have a tik tok about this. Okay. So cap table is very simple. It's just a document that shows who owns what amount of stock in the company. And so an investor comes in and they buy some shares or they give you a note and you hold that for them on the cap table.

Mary: (18:40)
If we find this tech talk slash you have to send it to us, we're linking this Tik Tok in the notes, this is fantastic! This is great. I'm about this.

Christie: (18:49)
I've been trying to like break down, investing on Tik Tok, but I don't know,

Jasmine: (18:53)
It's so needed because I feel like entrepreneurs are natural builders. Like I knew nothing about cap tables and safes and all of that stuff I like to build. And I just like to be with people and the product. So it's so helpful to have this information because it's definitely not what I would choose to learn on my own. Like out of fun, it's more so more so because it's a necessity. So keep making those tech tik tok.

Christie: (19:29)
Well, my latest, my last one was an ode to bootstrapping. So, yes.

Mary: (19:34)
So one of the things that I want to dive into a little bit more, um, so for our listeners, since 2007, the number of new businesses founded by minorities and in that number is women. And BioPark has increased by an average of over three percentage points per year. However, the percentage of minorities even seeking to raise capital, even seeking to raise it is not keeping pace by any measure. So what are the funding barriers that you've experienced as a founder or Christie that you've experienced being an investor and being in this really incredible position of Backstage Capital and Verizon, and what are these specific barriers and what are some of the barriers that actually in your experience have helped propel people once they get through them? So once they hit this barrier and they got through it, it just sent them on a really incredible track.

Jasmine: (20:32)
I think what I realized typically is there's a particular bucket that investors like to invest in. And right now it's B2B SAS. And I think in general, well, let me back up, I would say first you can be a solopreneur and not necessarily seek out funding, and that's not a bad thing to bootstrap until, you know, you're ready to go to the next step and if you want to get funding, that's great. And I do think that there's a lot of minority entrepreneurs that tend to be in that route. I don't. So I don't know if the lack of seeking funding is necessarily a bad thing, but it could also be a sign of a lack of access. But I would say that what I've noticed, at least in my circle of minority and specifically black entrepreneurs, is that it tends to be very product or consumer-focused. And even for us, we're a hardware technology. And if we're not, since we're not B2B SAS, we get a lot of nos pretty quickly because it doesn't fit into this box of what investors like to see, which is predictable, monthly subscription revenue from companies.

Jasmine: (21:33)
So I think that is a big barrier as the companies that minority entrepreneurs historically have started, tend to be different from what might be of interest in Christie, correct me if I'm wrong of investors. But although I think that is starting to shift now that people are making more of a point to invest in minority entrepreneurs. So my goal or what I would like to see is eventually it doesn't, we don't necessarily need funds to focus on minority entrepreneurs because it is, they can get just as much a capital or access as anyone else. But obviously, right now we need that those groups like you guys to propel people forward because they're commonly overlooked. So I would love to get your perspective on that as well.

Christie: (22:16)
Yeah. Thank you. So I do agree. I want to add a little bit of nuance to this. So I think that underrepresented founders are building companies in every single category, including your hottest, most buzzy VC interest category. So like right now, um, a phrase I come across all the time is future of work, whatever that means we're all going to be working for a long time. So I guess that's what it is, but I'm just joking. But like that future of work is something that gets talked about often right now. And it's, there's been, um, other areas like AI or virtual reality or SAS, for example. And I do think that there are founders that are building that don't look like you're like archetype of a founder that get venture funding and they still lack access and still lack opportunity to get funding. And I've seen this with our portfolio and also the companies that we've talked to you, we unfortunately we only get to invest in about two to 3% of the companies that we meet.

Christie: (23:11)
So it is really like, I think that's another thing that isn't talked about enough, is that just because I made a company and I really liked that company, it doesn't necessarily mean that I get to move forward with an investment in that company. And so, anyhow, I think that there really need, does need to be more opportunity for founders who are building an all categories to have access to funding and access to capital. And I think that there are some categories that do require more capital like hardware, for example, like you have to ship something that's a physical good that has to go into a box and go somewhere and it requires more money to create that and do that. But there are funds that focus on just investing in hardware companies and so are those funds open to introductions? Like, have you been able to talk to them, all of those different categories and things to consider?

Christie: (24:02)
And then I think the other thing is that there are so many founders that are building really incredible businesses and oftentimes they're building businesses from their unique point of view. And so that unique point of view may not be, or most likely is not well understood by the investor. So to give an example of this, we have a co-founder in our portfolio, her name Sheena, and she founded a company called Cap Way, which is a financial services company for the underbanked. And she grew up in rural Mississippi in like a banking desert. And she really understands this problem. And the first time that she was fundraising or several times when she was fundraising, the investors that she met with really didn't even understand that there are people in the US that don't have bank accounts. This is a huge market like millions and millions of people don't have bank accounts in the US but because investors are insulated from that, they themselves are financially stable and couldn't imagine a life without banking. Then it was hard for them to really grok the opportunity that existed. So I think finally, there are things that founders can do that will help them kind of get a leg up and move forward. One example is, is Backstage. Like, I think that many of our founders have expressed that once we've invested in them, it's helped them get access to more programs and follow-on capital. But honestly, the trick is just keep on working and keep on logging it out. And it might mean bootstrapping for longer, or it might mean more time between fundraising rounds or less fundraising. But that doesn't, like we said earlier, fundraising is not equivalent to success.

Jasmine: (25:38)
It reminds me of what was the name of that company Quibi, right. That had so much money. And then they still couldn't figure out what they were building. So I think that's a great example of like, you know, money doesn't necessarily mean that you have success, like you said.

Christie: (25:54)
Yeah. And I mean, if you worked at Quibi, like, do you even have that on your LinkedIn at this point?

Mary: (26:01)
What could an entrepreneur do to increase their visibility? If that's what they need to, or to network if it's about the relationship, what could they actively do? Like, we all know entrepreneurs are busy, they've got a thousand and a half things to do, and they've got this dream to build. But if it is within their purview, it's right for their business to seek funding, to go for VC funding, what can they do if they are from rural Mississippi, what can they do to increase their likelihood of quote-unquote being seen?

Jasmine: (26:33)
Um, I think just reaching out there as to as many people as you can, and odds are, someone's going to take a chance on you. Um, and if you can reach out before you need the funding, even better, so bring them in, invite them in on the process. So there are people in my network who I'll even call or send emails just to give them an update of how things are going. So then ideally by the time you do need funding, you have that relationship, like you said, Christie. So I would just reach out to as many people as you can if it's hundreds. So be it, hopefully, one person will respond, but all it takes is one person to take that chance. And then from there, the doors open.

Christie: (27:11)
Yeah. I think that that is such an excellent point, but there's a founder in our portfolio. Her name is Jasmine Crowe and she founded a company called Goodr in Atlanta. And I think she has done such an excellent job of this because it's exactly what you're saying. Jasmine, it's a beautiful name. And clearly, one that goes well for an entrepreneur. But what I'm trying to say here is that she has really been open about her journey, building her company Goodr online. And she's built this community of followers, of people that want to see her succeed. And so by the time it came, became an opportunity for us to invest. We knew her, or it felt like we knew her. Like I didn't, when I got into the meeting, it's not like, I'm like, what are you working on? It's like, I know what you're working on. I know the deals you've closed. I know your point of view on your industry. And the cool thing about social media is that you can really build a following. And the value of this goes far beyond investment. So like for example, Arlan and I originally met through Twitter and many of our crew members came from Twitter too. And that came from the fact that Arlan is really prolific and talks quite a bit about backstage and what we're doing. And that was true five and six years ago as well. And so I think that you can build a following for yourself online on LinkedIn, on Twitter, other places, and that will open doors for yourself. And then I think the other piece is however long you think it's going to take, times out by three. So if you can get someone to take you six months to fundraise, it's really going to take you 18 months if you're cold to it.

Christie: (28:43)
And if that sounds like too much time or too much of a headache and effort to build those relationships and invest 18 months into something, don't do it. There's no obligation spend that time instead on your product and your customers and grow your company that way. But one thing I think that I wanted to bring up, we haven't talked about so far, we've talked so much about the importance of network, but I want to put a little bit of a finer point on this, which is that as a founder, the most powerful network you can have is other founders. And I think so many founders like focus on trying to meet VCs and like build relationships with VCs or investors. And like, those relationships are often closed-door relationships. So you might get one meeting, but unless that person is going to invest in you, they're likely not going to introduce you to others. There's this weird dynamic, which is that if you're an investor and you haven't invested in a company, you can't recommend it to other investors because then they're like, why are you introducing me if you didn't invest? And it's like this weird thing, but like, if you know other founders, first of all, they're in the same situation you are, they're building their companies. When you hit a rough patch, you can talk to somebody that's really there in the moment with you. And then secondly, there's no more powerful introduction to an investor than another founder that they've invested in. Like, those are the intros we take first or backstage, and we have an open application process. Anyone can apply for investment. So you don't need an intro to get to us. But when our founders come to us and say like, Hey, here's somebody that I know really well. And I think that they'd be a great fit for the portfolio. That's the call that I want to take immediately.

Mary: (30:12)
I do want to talk a little bit about Backstage Studio, because I know that a lot of people come to us and ask, well, what is right for me? Should I do VC? Should I do incubator? Should I do accelerator? Should I go do loans? And of course, we have a lot of these conversations at the foundation about what is right for that person's business, which that's our job like, great. That's what we'll do, but it is always extremely overwhelming. And so as we talk about founders getting to know other founders, Christie, would you like to share with us a little bit about the power of this incubator and what it's doing to break down a lot of barriers that some incubators have created all that the VC world has traditionally created?

Christie: (30:57)
Ok. So we have an accelerator at backstage. We call it Backstage Accelerator, very on the nose. And it's in multiple cities. So it ran in 2019 in Detroit, London, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles concurrently. And what was cool about that was that in each city there was a local cohort. And then because all four cities were running at the same time, there was this global cohort. And so you got the immediate local network of founders, and then you also had the global network and we didn't run it in 2020 because Rona. So we'll see what happens this year. Next year, we're kind of retooling right now. I actually think that accelerators and incubators for the most part are really valuable part of the ecosystem for founders because they generally have open applications. And generally, I think they're very helpful. There are of course, a few bad apples. Like I definitely think it's a red flag. If a program charges you and there are a few exceptions to that, but there are some programs that charge that are, that do provide a really excellent experience. And the weight of that, that is to talk to founders that have been through it. Like that's the hack whenever you want to find out if a VC is good or an incubator accelerator, any program is good, finding a founder that went through it and ask them. But yeah, so that's what we do at Backstage. And it really just took our investing to the next level. For years, we were investing one company at a time and by investing through accelerator, we were able to bring in cohort of companies. And we saw that that made a big difference for the companies that we invested in in the accelerator.

Mary: (32:24)
When we have successes, how can we keep the momentum going in a positive way?

Jasmine: (32:28)
I wish we would redefine success. I know typically in like tug crunch and all of those type of publications, it's typically by how much money has been raised. So I would love to see us just celebrate more people who have, you know, attain those minor or smaller milestones of, you know, even just making the jump that in and of itself should be like, celebrated so much just making that leap. So I think it would be great to see that shift in what success looks like versus how much money you've raised. And I know you mentioned that too Christie versus, you know, what you traditionally see and tech crunch, which is seed round for this and 1 billion, 2 billion.

Christie: (33:08)
Yeah. And I think in terms of the framing, so there's not, unfortunately, the founders don't have that much control over how the story is told, but I think that this is something that over time we can affect a change on, and it's something that we're passionate about it backstage. So one thing that we've said is quarter our thesis for a long time is this value of amplification, which is helping to tell the stories of the founders that are in our portfolio and helping to change the narrative around. Who's seen as a successful tech founder. And through that work, we've made a lot of relationships with really incredible reporters who are looking for other angles. So I think it's just, this is something that will shift with time and there's some good trends right now that are happening in media around this. And there are also some that are a little bit concerning. So actually one final thought is that you don't necessarily get to control what the press says, but you control your voice online. And this is where having a really strong community of your own followers can be very valuable because you can go straight to them and explain your position and maintaining transparency with your followers. And also really being clear about your point of view over time, I think helps to inform and add texture to one press piece, which if you don't have that community online and the press piece stands on its own, and then it doesn't have that additional context.

Jasmine: (34:31)
Yeah, that's a really good point.

Mary: (34:32)
Absolutely. I want to ask both of you, what is like the one or more than one? Like what of wisdom or advice that you would want to leave with young minority entrepreneurs or solopreneurs from today from talking about funding and VC and all of this?

Jasmine: (34:50)
I think from a builder standpoint, you know, just get out there and build, um, you never really know until the products out there, so don't overthink it. Just kind of go for it. From a funding standpoint, reach out to as many people as you can, to understand what cap tables are, different types of fundraising options. You have Republic out there too. So kind of if you have that audience that you've been building, that's an option as well, clear bank as well. So VC funding isn't the only way to get money. So I would say do a lot of research and reach out to other founders who have raised money, alternatively, and consider your options.

Christie: (35:26)
A hundred percent. I think I have two things too. One is like this like classic piece of advice that I always like to use, which is get some sleep. I think I used to hear it. Doesn't matter who you are. Just go get some sleep, like go to bed tonight and make that a habit because it will change your life. There's no shame in sleeping eight hours a night. It's, it's a powerful tool. And then the other thing I would think I can say is you can do it like, just because you may not have seen somebody that looks just like, that might have that success story. It doesn't mean you might be the first. And you know, we are here at Backstage to help you be successful. And there's also thousands of founders that are out here to cheer you on and help you get to the next level. And whether that means bootstrapping until you sell your business and own all of it. And then you can like kick back on your private Island and maybe make investments yourself, or if it means being in the VC game, awesome. Like this is your journey. You own it. And you are capable.

Jasmine: (36:23)
Yeah. And I would say to touch on that, cause I had so much and sometimes still do imposter syndrome is something that I tell myself and I don't care if it's true. Um, no one knows what they're doing. Yeah. So just like do it cause really there's no one who's an expert out there. So we're all just winging our way through life. So you're just as capable and respectable as any other investor or a founder. So just do it.

Christie: (36:49)
a hundred percent. Also, this might sound really callous, but nobody cares about you. Like I learned how to dance or I, I like to dance. Like that's my like workout thing. And I used to be so self-conscious like I would get in the closet, be like, oh, I just screwed that up. And then I realized like, nobody is looking at me. They're all worried about themselves. Like everybody's worried about hitting their own moves. No one cares about you. So keep that in mind, like you're on your own journey and you can do it

Jasmine: (37:16)
So refreshing.

Mary: (37:18)
This is fantastic. Thank you both so much.

Christie & Jasmine: (37:21)
Thank you! This was great.

Mary: (37:24)
Thank you so much for joining us for that conversation. I hope you all had a great time listening in, as we talked about VC and all of the different barriers that minority entrepreneurs face and what we can actually start to do about them. Next week, we are going to talk about entrepreneurship as a creative and monetizing that side hustle. Whether you're a designer, an artist, a painter, a photographer, you name it. And if you are thinking about turning that creative passion, that might only seem like a side hustle into an actual business, you don't want to miss this upcoming conversation. Don't forget to also check out our Calling All Voices. This is our open call for papers submitted by you and celebrated by us. We want to hear all voices, opinions, walks of life, and unique views on gender, sexuality, identity, and finances from the whole, not the view. Our top picks will be published and the winner will be on our podcast. Chatting with us. Thanks for holding this space with us. And we can't wait to chat with you next week.