WashU project seeks to boost venture capital flow to minority firms – The Business Journals

Entrepreneurs often speak to Doug Villhard‘s students at Washington University’s Olin Business School.
But Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship, noticed it’s been harder to find entrepreneurs who are women or minorities to speak.
He thinks that because little venture capital is going to firms founded by those groups. In 2021, startups founded by women attracted only 2% of funding given to venture-backed U.S. startups, according to research firm Pitchbook. Studies released earlier this year found that Black and Hispanic founders have snagged only 1% and 2.1%, respectively, of venture dollars.
“It’s just kind of staggering how low that is,” Villhard said.
The Olin Business School wants to help boost those figures. Its new project plans to produce a report detailing the minority funding gap and spelling out public policy recommendations for how more funding can be provided to minority founders.
“We did not just want to be a committee that just talks about the problem. We wanted to be something that offers real solutions,” Villhard said.
The project is being funded through a $750,000 grant from the St. Louis-based Bellwether Foundation that was awarded to the Olin Business School. The grant established the Olin Brookings Commission, a collaboration of the Olin Business School and Washington, D.C.-based think tank Brookings Institution. It’s pursuing yearly projects “to explore issues of global significance.” This marks the second project through the grant, following an initiative last year focused on the opioid crisis.
The project includes the involvement of several WashU faculty members, including Villhard; Daniel Elfenbein, professor of organization and strategy; Dedric Carter, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and vice chancellor for innovation and chief commercialization officer; and Gisele Marcus, professor of practice. Several Olin Business School students also are involved in the project.
Additionally, the Olin Brookings Commission has assembled a nine-person commission of business founders, investors and policy influencers who will help shape the report. The members of the commission include:
As it compiles its report, the Olin Business Commission plans to host an academic conference focused on the topic in November at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. It will hold a working paper session in February 2023 in San Francisco. It plans to release its report in April 2023.
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