The April 2018 issue of Vanity Fair featured a photo of 26 Black women entrepreneurs—each of whom had raised more than $1 million in capital. I trace the origins of that historic photo to “The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Women,” the 2016 ProjectDiane report by Kathryn Finney, founder of digitalundivided, with Marlo Rencher.
Finney’s pivotal report, sponsored by Go Daddy, studied 88 tech startups led by Black women. The report confirmed the extraordinary accomplishments of these women, who represent the fastest growing group overall of American entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It also identifies the severe obstacles faced by U.S. women who are African-American entrepreneurs. These include lack of access to funding for startups and lack of access to startup accelerators.
In the wake of the #metoo and #timesup movements, Finney’s act of independent journalism has inspired coverage of Black women entrepreneurs by the venture capital press. It seems pretty clear to me that if Finney hadn’t led this research, debunking Silicon Valley’s self-proclaimed meritocracy and validating the achievements of Black women despite these barriers, the press wouldn’t be paying attention to this subject.
As a white entrepreneur, I have not experienced what Black women have. Yet until recently, despite my track record as a five-time serial entrepreneur, I was invisible.
Indeed, 17 years ago, when having created a community of 25 million women for Hearst-backed Women.com, I was the first internet journalist named a Nieman Fellow, the prevailing opinion in journalism and in tech was that women would never go online in large numbers.