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Mergelane Blog

Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

Authentic Feedback for Underrepresented Founders

I listened to this story about a black entrepreneur who has been unable to raise funding for his startup. He has been pitching to investors for three years without success. There may be sound business reasons why investors are opting out, but listening to his story made me wonder whether the investors he pitched had given him authentic feedback. 

Our fund, MergeLane, invests in startups and venture capital funds led by at least one female leader. I routinely hear women say that they receive less corrective investor feedback than their male couterparts. I have heard investors say that they hesitate to give negative feedback to underrepresented founders out of fear of being perceived as biased.

When my co-founder Sue raised this topic a few years ago, I realized that I had occasionally held back myself. Admittedly, I still feel fear every time I share feedback with non-Caucasian founders, but I try to be honest — knowing and saying, as always, that my feedback is just one opinion. Both Sue and I feel that if we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zone, then disadvantaged founders will be at a distinct disadvantage in the funding race. Easily solved issues that may provide excellent opportunities for learning — for them or for us — will persist. These entrepreneurs will keep wondering why they’re getting “no’s.” That feels unfair to us, and we’re avidly working to take the extra risk of giving authentic feedback to everyone, including founders who may not receive it from others. 

If you're a startup founder who is a person of color or a person from any underrepresented group who craves straightforward feedback, my partner Sue Heilbronner hosts regular  QuickPitch events. We'd love to see you there or you can drop me an email with “Craving Authentic Feedback” in the subject line.

I post my most interesting weekly thoughts, coupled with the best of my listening and reading list, and occasional MergeLane Portfolio news every (or nearly every) Tuesday. To follow Tuesday Takeaways and our occasional blog posts, you can subscribe to our blog or follow me on twitter.


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