More than 11 million minority-owned businesses make up the economic fabric of the United States, according to data compiled by The Business Journals, and these businesses generate about $1.8 trillion in annual revenue, making up a good portion of the country’s economic success.
Yet, minority-owned businesses do not receive nearly as much venture capital as their white-owned counterparts.
According to data from Crunchbase, Black entrepreneurs receive less than 2% of all venture capital funding each year, and companies led by Black women receive less than 1% of those dollars. While VC funding for Black-founded startups saw a historic increase in 2021, inflation and the spike in interest rates caused that funding to drop by 45% in 2022, while overall VC funding only dropped by 36%.
Unfortunately, this disparity extends beyond funding.
The tech industry has long been an arena that lacks diverse players. According to a 2021 report from the Computing Technology Industry Association, Latin workers comprise 16% of the national workforce but only 7% of its tech jobs. Likewise, Black workers account for 8% of the tech jobs nationwide yet make up 13% of the country’s workforce. Furthermore, women are responsible for 49% of the nation’s workforce, but hold only 26% of tech jobs across the country.
Ending this imbalance and closing the funding gap is the mission of Bronze Valley, a non-profit, early-stage venture investment platform, and certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Birmingham, Alabama.
Determined to create pathways for underrepresented entrepreneurs to access capital and scale their businesses, Bronze Valley has been providing capital, advisory services, and accelerator programming for the past five years.
Valley Bank learned about Bronze Valley and its mission in 2018, providing them with their first source of funding to support overlooked tech entrepreneurs with the venture capital necessary to fuel a tech community that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“It’s hard not to be inspired by the dedication of Bronze Valley’s president and CEO Neill S. Wright to challenge the status quo of the tech industry and venture capital by providing financial resources to tech entrepreneurs who have historically been overlooked,” said Delpha Bartley-Jones, Regional CRA Officer for Alabama at Valley Bank. “We’re proud to have been the first bank to provide Bronze Valley with funding for this important mission, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support them as they continue to grow.”
Bronze Valley offers immersive programming designed to help its startups grow and scale their businesses called the Bronze Valley VentureLab. Programming includes one-on-one advising between founders and expert advisors through Bronze Valley C-Suite On-Demand, a six-month accelerator program, and a seven-week intensive bootcamp devised to help its participants increase their capacity for growth, scale, and profitability.
To date, the programming has yielded great success, as Bronze Valley has invested in more than 24 startups across ten states that are owned and operated by diverse or female founders. Nearly 70 jobs have been created and $5,750,000 in total follow-on capital raised as a result of Bronze Valley’s investments in these startups.
Bronze Valley’s current investment portfolio is comprised of approximately 90% African American, 64% women, and 12% Asian entrepreneurs, reflecting the exact kind of diversity and inclusion it seeks to promote in tech, technological entrepreneurship, and venture capital.
“Bronze Valley continues to fulfill its mission of helping diverse, underrepresented, and underestimated founders succeed,” said Neill S. Wright, president, and CEO of Bronze Valley. “Our success would not be possible without the partnership of organizations like Valley Bank and others who share our commitment to the future.”
Valley Bank is proud to support Bronze Valley as it continues to develop and advance its programming, that in turn, creates opportunity for women and minority entrepreneurs that otherwise have been overlooked by the current VC funding system. Their work is making a difference in the lives of these entrepreneurs and is helping to shape the tech industry into a field that better reflects the minds that make up this country.
To learn more about Bronze Valley and its work, please visit www.bronzevalley.com.