Early Impact of Colorwave: Cohort 1 Spotlight

We’ve got to make sure that everybody’s getting a fair shot. The next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie or Esteban. They might never set foot in Silicon Valley. We’ve got to unleash the full potential of every American — not leave more than half the team on the bench — Former President Barack Obama

In Fall 2020, we developed Colorwave as a direct response to some very alarming trends within American society and the innovation economy. There were a few central facts staring our founding team in the face.

  1. America’s widening racial wealth gap where the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family (Brookings). Similarly, the gap between Latinx and white families was 21 cents per $1 of white wealth (St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank).
  2. Despite entrepreneurship being a proven pathway to generational wealth creation, Black and Latinx founders of high-growth companies remained at a disadvantage, raising only 2.4% of total venture capital raised since 2015 (Crunchbase).
  3. Black and Latinx remained sorely underrepresented as leaders of high-growth startup executive teams, making up 2.1% and 2.6%, respectively (Kauffman Fellow Research Center & MaC VC).

While much attention has often been given to the lack of diverse representation at America’s large corporations and tech titans, our hypothesis is that the high-growth, venture-backed sector represents a unique market opportunity to combat these trends on both sides. For professionals of color, startups provide an opportunity to gain experience and contribute to the rapid growth of companies. Ultimately, if the startup experiences an exit event, members of these communities unlock huge financial upside and economic freedom not commonly afforded to them in traditional, large corporate roles. For startups, prioritizing diversity as you continue to grow, will help build more inclusive work environments and likely lead to better business performance as recent studies have shown (BCG).

Armed with clear problems and this hypothesis, we launched Colorwave’s Fellows program in January 2021 with 22 fellows. This 8-week virtual experience was designed for Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals to help them better understand, navigate, and thrive within the VC-backed sector.

Somewhat to our surprise, the first offering was an immediate success as evidenced by participant feedback.

Colorwave Fellows Cohort 1 Programmatic Outcomes

In five short months, we have supported more than 70 fellows. Below we have spotlighted four members of our inaugural cohort already making waves and primed to be the next diverse leaders of the industry.

Inaugural Cohort Spotlight

Imani Parker-Fong, Colorwave Inaugural Cohort Fellow

Q: What attracted you to join Colorwave?

A: I wanted to join Colorwave to learn how to identify the right startup to work for, better understand why working at a startup can be financially advantageous, learn how to negotiate for salary and equity if working at a startup, to hear from incredible entrepreneurs and early stage startup employees, and to connect with individuals who are also interested in startups.

Q: How has participating in the fellowship program impacted your career journey?

A: Through Colorwave, I connected with incredible mentors and advocates who have connected me with a number of people who have been able to provide excellent advice as I seek a career in the venture capital industry. I also had the chance to participate in mock interviews with startups which led to several actual interviews for pre MBA internship opportunities. Learning more about the diverse array of startups that exist and better understanding what they are looking for, was extremely valuable. Lastly, I was able to secure a pre-MBA summer internship in my desired field (venture capital) through a Colorwave partner. I look forward to continuing to engage with the cohort.

Q: If you could spotlight one signature or memorable moment during the 8-week program, what would that be?

A: I had the opportunity to moderate a discussion between Sherice Torres, Vice President of Marketing, F2 (Facebook Financial) and Colorwave Board member, and Dr. Angela Jackson, Managing Partner, New Profit. Both speakers were incredibly candid and vulnerable about both their struggles and successes throughout their careers. Through this experience, I learned the importance of navigating a career while managing up, ensuring that I choose teams and careers that value what I bring to the table, and the importance of career exploration.

Post-program plans: Imani will be attending Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in Fall 2021. Prior to her MBA program, she will be working two internships in venture capital with Colorwave VC partner, Concrete Rose Capital, and Halogen Ventures.

Kai Cash, Colorwave Inaugural Cohort Fellow

Q: What attracted you to join Colorwave?

A: The cohort experience was what attracted me to join Colorwave. The Colorwave mission resonated and I knew the only way to achieve it was with a community of people connected throughout time and space. I was excited to get in on the ground floor and help to build something that changes the world.

Q: How has participating in the fellowship program impacted your career journey?

A: Colorwave gave me courage. I stopped thinking about what I wanted to do and just started to do it.

Q: If you could spotlight one signature or memorable moment during the 8-week program, what would that be?

A: The moment that stands out the most to me in the program was Sherice Torres’ advice “not to confuse bringing your authentic self with bringing your whole self.” In the virtual, remote, and asynchronous world we live and work in now there is a pressure to over share and to work more but her advice is a constant reminder that it is okay to have and hold boundaries. We are all team players but we are also all human.

Post-program plans: During the program, Kai officially transitioned into VC, securing an Analyst role with Primary Ventures in NYC.

Neli Avila, Colorwave Inaugural Cohort Fellow

Q: What attracted you to join Colorwave?

A: I was looking to make a career transition and was pretty interested in the startup ecosystem but did not have a solid understanding of what the innovation economy consisted of and what it would take to make a transition. I was also very interested in networking with other like-minded individuals who were both new to the space and experienced professionals with lots of really helpful insights.

Q: How has participating in the fellowship program impacted your career journey?

A: When I first started the program, I had very little understanding of what it meant to work at a startup. After hearing from very influential speakers about their experiences, the opportunities that were presented to them, as well as the level of growth they have had over their years in their industries, I became highly intrigued in starting on a path to working at a startup. With the guidance of The Colorwave staff, I was able to land an externship opportunity as a Marketing Specialist extern at Prose Hair and have absolutely loved it. My plan is to pursue an MBA to gain the foundational business skills to enter a career in Marketing/Brand Management.

Q: If you could spotlight one signature or memorable moment during the 8-week program, what would that be?

A: During week three of the program, we had Sherice Torres and Dr. Angela Jackson as our keynote speakers and it was such an empowering experience. I entered the program with very little confidence in myself and what my career journey would look like, and after hearing them both speak many words of wisdom, I felt very energized and ready to bring my full self into the opportunities that presented themselves. A few quotes from that day that really resonated with me were, “You don’t have to wait for someone to pick you, you can pick them,” and “Don’t confuse bringing your authentic self with bringing your whole self. You can still keep things to yourself.”

Post-program plans: Neli was able to complete a marketing externship opportunity with Prose Hair, a portfolio company of Colorwave VC partner, Lerer Hippeau. This experience will help her further her transition into marketing and brand management.

Tiffany Billey, Colorwave Inaugural Cohort Fellow

Q: What attracted you to join Colorwave?

A: It’s hard to put into words how transformative and enriching my experience with Colorwave was. Before joining Colorwave I was really into startups, gaining my first experience at one of the media labs during my undergraduate study. After college, I volunteered at a few pre-seed startups, but I couldn’t seem to fully emerge in other series startups. At that time, I didn’t even know what that meant, so I decided to join Colorwave as a way to network and learn what it means to work at a more developed startup.

Q: How has participating in the fellowship program impacted your career journey?

A: After meeting the other fellows in the cohort and learning so much about startups from the weekly speakers, I knew I made the right choice to join the fellowship. Following the program, I ultimately landed a position at a Series D startup in NYC, DailyPay.

Q: If you could spotlight one signature or memorable moment during the 8-week program, what would that be?

A: Our workshop with Suezette Robotham around practical resume and interview tips was extremely helpful and provided just-in-time insight on how I can stand out as a candidate! Her insight and the other resources from Colorwave enabled me to transition into a new role.

Post-program plans: Following the completion of the program, Tiffany transitioned into a role as a Product Designer with startup, DailyPay.

To harken back to former President Obama’s statement on diversity in America’s innovation economy, Colorwave is making sure the top, diverse ‘players’ have access to the thriving entrepreneurial ‘game’ and are primed to ‘star’ in their role once there.

Stay tuned for more spotlights on the waves our community is making in America’s innovation economy!

Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe at www.thecolorwave.org.

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Making the innovation economy more equitable and inclusive by providing leaders of color access to the VC-backed startup sector.

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