“There definitely have been times when I have walked into a room and had people underestimate me because I am a woman.”
These are the words of Barbara Clarke, angel investor and Co-Founder of The Impact Seat, an organization which consults and works with individuals and companies whilst promoting inclusive innovation.
Clarke was one of three guest panelists at a special event held organized by South Shore Innovation at West of Chestnut apartments in Quincy recently.
The event theme was inclusive innovation and diversity in entrepreneurship. EdTech entrepreneurs Phillip Ellison and Joel Liu were the other panelists.
They treated guests to insights into the struggles they face in their entrepreneurial journeys due to their ethnic backgrounds.
Ellison who founded ‘Young Leaders 4 Change’, an advocacy and fundraising group which promoted civic awareness in New York City during the 2012 Presidential election, said that despite his struggles, he would do it all again.
He said: “Someone once asked me ‘if you knew what it took from the beginning, would you do it?’ and I said I would because now the skills and assets I have are vastly different from when I saw the opportunity of the social impact.
“The biggest struggle is just getting out there, getting out into the world and learning.”
Ellison is also co-founder of ULink, a tech-enabled venture that aims to alleviate the college and transfer advising gap in American community colleges.
Chinese entrepreneur Joel Liu agreed with Ellison’s sentiments. He compared his journey to coding, but explained running a business with more than nine million users is understandably much more of a challenge.
“In both cases, you run into many problems,” Liu said. “Coding is more simple because there is one problem to solve, but when you run a business, you have many problems at once and you need to find what the problems are and fix them and that is much harder.”
Liu, who founded Diigo, a web-based application that helps students read and research better, moved to the US just three months ago and noted that the stark differences in culture between the States and his homeland have added to the challenge.
These challenges, as they are with most entrepreneurs, include finding a successful co-founder and investors.
But for Barbara Clarke, she joked that as she is the person with the money, the ball is in her court.
“I can do what I want,” she laughed, “but there definitely are a lot of presumptions about women in innovation. People wonder if you are the investor or if the person next to you the investor. My portfolio is 100 percent gender diverse, and that’s the way I want it to be.”
South Shore Innovation Founder Eric Braun said the gathering of people from diverse backgrounds was an encouraging sign for the future of entrepreneurship.
He said: “So many people had different diverse ideas, and some were working on startup companies. I think the panel was really successful at scratching the surface on the issues of diversity and what’s important when you are an entrepreneur.
“Overall, everybody left very happy and excited. At South Shore Innovation, we are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to cultivate entrepreneurship.”
SSI Board Member Steve Eby added: “Diverse companies are more successful for two reasons. Bringing diverse ideas and creativity to the business and better understanding the diversity of your customer base to meet their needs.”
West of Chestnut Property Manager, Sam Diss, said: “West of Chestnut was thrilled to offer our Club Suite for the Inclusive Innovation Panel Discussion and Networking event. We take great pride in our beautiful amenity spaces, and strive to be a good community partner; working with groups like South Shore Innovation is one way that we can help contribute to the dynamic fabric of the greater Quincy community.”
South Shore Innovation encourages everyone interested in startups, entrepreneurship and innovation to get involved with its activities and organization. To learn more, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Shore Innovation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a board and members made up of entrepreneurs and business people who want to make an impact by continuing to extend and support entrepreneurship to the suburbs and other areas with underserved populations. Entrepreneurship is the hope for the future if we teach it, encourage it, support it and build community around it.
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