Three Founders Share Strategies for Navigating Bias and Building Confidence

Three Founders Share Strategies for Navigating Bias and Building Confidence

Entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups are likely to confront obstacles than their white male competitors, but their problems go well beyond systematic racism and a lack of finance. Startup owners that are women, transgender, or Black must deal with a slew of difficulties for which there is no manual: Many workers have never been led by someone who has gone through gender transitioning, and people of color may be unsure how much of their genuine self they can bring to the office. CEO moms are more likely to shoulder the majority of their family’s childcare obligations.

I spoke with Hannah Mohan, a transgender woman who the CEO and co-founder of MagicBell, a notification platform for product groups. Leslie Feinzig, a Latina entrepreneur who founded the Women Founders Alliance. And Stephen Bailey, a black man who is the founder and CEO of Exec Online, an online leadership development platform, on a TechCrunch Disrupt Extra Crunch Stage panel, “The Path for Underrepresented Founders.”

We went slightly over our given time; the discussion was a mix of candid discussion of their personal experiences and practical discussion of some of the tactics that have helped them stay on track. Despite his or her diverse backgrounds, each panelist agreed that it is critical for non-privileged or wealthy entrepreneurs to realize and acknowledge that systematic bias exists. Because Silicon Valley prides itself on being a meritocracy, disconnect between expectations and reality can lead to cognitive dissonance.

When Feinzaig started fundraising in 2017, he said, “I expected it to be difficult.” “However, I expected it to be fair,” she added. “And it was merely a gaslit experience in actuality.” I felt as if I were in a dark room. Nobody could even show me how to switch on the lights.”

Pattern-recognition bias influences not only whom investors choose to deal with, but also how founders promote themselves and their firms, according to Mohan, whose startup graduated from Y Combinator’s winter 2021 class. “White cis guys tend to talk with arrogance, like ‘we’re going to kill the competition,'” she remarked. “I really felt like it resonated better when I sprinkled some of those terms into my pitch, like you have to express that enthusiasm is naturally adequately balanced,” she says.