The Olin Brookings Commission—Driving Quality of Life
The Olin Brookings Commission is a multiyear initiative, underwritten by The Bellwether Foundation Inc., that convenes world-class WashU Olin Business School faculty, Brookings Institution scholars and industry leaders to explore issues of global significance. Each year, a new commission will direct research and gather data to examine megatrend topics that affect the quality of life in our community. Each commission’s work culminates with a report to national, regional and local decision-makers, summarizing its conclusions and recommending business strategies and policy measures designed to drive tangible impact on the world.
The 2022–23 Olin Brookings Commission
The commission offered recommendations for how policymakers and members of the industry could address the woeful gap in startup funding for women, Black and Latinx founders.
A stunning imbalance of startup funding available to founders who are women, Black or Latinx inspired the work of the 2022-23 Olin Brookings Commission. A new six-member commission—composed of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and public policy experts—sought to examine the root causes of the inequity and develop solutions for the historically lopsided funding. Read more here about the commission’s process and work. Consider:
- Women represent 50.5% of the US population, yet recent reports suggest that only 2% of venture capital money went to female founders in 2021.
- Individuals identifying as Black or African American represent 13.6% of the US population, but Black founders received only about 1% of venture financing in 2020 and 1.4% in 2021.
- Individuals identifying as Hispanic or Latinx represent 18.9% of the US population. Yet, data from Crunchbase, a database of startup funding, suggests that Hispanic or Latinx founders receive only about 2% of venture funding.
Commission members broke down their recommendations into three categories.
- Increased transparency: When trying to enact change, the first thing to do is track where you are today so you can tell whether the strategies are working. Among their suggestions, commission members recommended that data leaders like PitchBook and Crunchbase create options for expanded self-reporting in leading databases and provide a straightforward way for researchers and stakeholders to access and analyze data through a secure platform interface or data-sharing agreements.
- Government support: Venture capitalists’ singular goal is to make the largest possible return for investors. Therefore, the most promising solutions are those that incentivize venture capitalists to make diverse choices. For policymakers, that means creating a policy environment that doesn’t perpetuate the status quo but, rather, encourages an innovative community that is inclusive.
- Increase public awareness: In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the social unrest that followed, many firms acknowledged there was work to be done to create more equitable funding. How are we holding each other accountable to those commitments? Commission members said an advocacy group is needed to not only hold each other accountable but also to amplify data findings and influence public policy.
Read the full report by the 2022–23 Olin Brookings Commission presented at the Brooking Institution on April 20, 2023.