Case Foundation: Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship / Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship. Sheila Herrling, SVP, Social Innovation, Case Foundation Blog. Feb 16, 2016.

We’re celebrating the rich history of entrepreneurs of color and working to level the entrepreneurial playing field for all.


Myths of the Entrepreneur persist and are perhaps disproportionately holding back entrepreneurs of color when our nation needs them most. Let’s be reminded of some of the greatest innovations of our time, all led by entrepreneurs of color:

  • The carbon-filament light bulb invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881. Thomas Edison gets all the glow (no pun intended), but Latimer’s filament made it cheaper, more efficient and, therefore, more practical and profitable.
  • The gas mask invented by Garrett A. Morgan, first used in 1916.
  • Blood banks, made possible by the invention of Dr. Charles Richard Drew in 1940, which allowed plasma to be dehydrated and countless lives saved since.
  • Refrigerators, invented by Frederick M. Jones in 1940, modernized farming and shipping, and led to the introduction of modern-day supermarkets.
  • The automatic oil cup for train parts, invented by Elijah McCoy; his design was so superior to the many knock-offs that engineers ordering them asked for “The Real McCoy” (ok – really, how many of you knew that’s where that term came from?!)
  • The potato chip! Invented by George Crum in 1853, the potato chip industry became a billion dollar business, creating a massive amount of jobs and certainly changed my world.

And let’s highlight some modern-day entrepreneurs of color showcasing the power and potential of diversifying the current state of our nation’s entrepreneurship:

  • Publisher John H. Johnson who started both the Ebony and Jet brands and the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400 list.
  • Financier Melody Hobson of Ariel Investments, which today is the largest minority owned investment firm in the world with nearly $11 billion in assets.
  • Hotelier and sports team owner Sheila Johnson, who was co-founder of BET and the first African American female billionaire.
  • Entrepreneur and investor Daymond John who is founder and CEO of FUBU and a judge on the hit show Shark Tank on ABC.
  • CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd of ACT-1 Group, the nation’s largest black female owned business with more than $1.4 billion in revenue.
  • Earl Robinson, CEO of PowerMoves (disclosure: PowerMoves is a grantee of the Case Foundation), which has backed 100 minority-founded companies, raising $27 million in venture capital and creating more than 350 jobs.
  • Kesha Cash, founder of Impact America, investing in underserved communities.
  • And venture capitalist Erik Moore with five exits under his belt and dozens of investments in companies like

So much history to celebrate. So much to be inspired by. And so much more to do to recognize and realize the full innovation potential of America by leveling the entrepreneurship playing field for all. Connecting social and financial capital to women and entrepreneurs of color who continue to be under-represented and whose success will serve as inspiration to a whole new set of young dreamers looking for role models to whom they can relate. Sadly, today only 3% of venture-backed companies have female CEOs and only 1% have founders of color; Project Diane’s report on the success of African American women in tech is best summarized by Wired as “embarrassing.” Making entrepreneurship more inclusive isn’t about charity or political correctness; it’s about sound business. Research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. And in many respects, it’s about restoring the American dream.

The talent, the companies and the opportunities to level the playing field are out there. There just needs to be more intentionality in the discovery and sourcing process. Over the last two days, I’ve seen some of our future nation shapers on stage at PowerMoves Miami launch. Companies like Neurtronic Perpetual Innovations, LISNR, VOO Media Group and Kairos have all each raised more than $5 million with disruptive ideas. Watch out for Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform, who today won the Knight Foundation’s Angel Round Pitch Competition, which I had the honor of judging. And please, let’s model the secret sauce of PowerMoves in sourcing successful black female founders – of the 11 (yes, only 11!) black female founders that have raised more than $1 million in outside investment, four of them — Lisa Dyson of Kiverdi, Kellee James of Mercaris, Cheryl Contee of and Jewel Burks of Partpic (disclosure: Partpic is an investment of our founder Steve Case) — are alumna of the PowerMoves model, collectively raising nearly $50 million in capital. ….

Read the full article here.


Case Foundation’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship Initiative

…We believe in leveling the playing field for all entrepreneurs – particularly women and people of color — in all places in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems.

From the earliest days of the Case Foundation and our work in the digital divide, we have been keenly aware of the difference in access and opportunity that communities face in this country and around the world.

All around us we see individuals, businesses and communities solving problems, improving lives and expanding prosperity, yet hurdles to economic security and employment confront too many and grave global challenges still persist.

Our efforts to support entrepreneurs and the role they play in driving innovation and job growth in the US and around the world have certainly been rewarding. But in the past year, we began to ask ourselves whether the full potential of entrepreneurial talent is being put to work on pressing local, national and global problems. And, in particular, how the playing field can be leveled for underrepresented communities – including women and people of color – to become entrepreneurs and grow thriving businesses.

We are committed to expanding our support for inclusive entrepreneurship, building upon a learning base started this year through partnerships with Forward Cities and Opportunity Nation. We will explore partnerships and programs that aim to reduce common barriers to entrepreneurship faced by diverse entrepreneurs, and scale local pilots into national programs serving women and entrepreneurs of color.


  • Powermoves Launches, Black Tech Week Opens Amid Sobering Statistics. Nancy Dahlberg. Miami Herald. Feb 17, 2016.
    PowerMoves, a new entrepreneurship program aimed at building a pipeline of entrepreneurs of color, launched in Miami this week. Black Tech Week, a celebration of entrepreneurs of color, runs through Saturday. Both events aim to increase the pipeline of entrepreneurs of color and connect them with resources. To help close this gap, PowerMoves is connecting entrepreneurs of color to mentors, capital, support and investment opportunities.

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