2022-23 Olin Brookings Commission

The 2022–23 Olin Brookings Commission

Download the full report of the 2022-23 Olin Brookings Commission, “Bridging the Startup Funding Gap for Women, Black and Latinx Entrepreneurs.” The report explores the persistent inequity in startup funding to these marginalized communities, the consequences of allowing this to continue, the root causes of this inequity and ways to address it. It was presented on April 20, 2023, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Download The Report
See the commission's presentation

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.

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Retrieving Data

Founders and funders

Lori Coulter Morgan DeBaun Martin Hunt Akeem Shannon

Policy influencers

Charli Cooksey Andre Perry

Research team and faculty conveners

Doug Villhard Daniel Elfenbein Dedric Carter Gisele Marcus Ming zhu Wang Aditi Vashist
  • Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship, academic director for entrepreneurship
  • Daniel Elfenbein, professor of organization and strategy
  • Dedric Carter, Olin’s professor of practice in entrepreneurship and WashU’s vice chancellor for innovation and chief commercialization officer
  • Gisele Marcus, professor of practice
  • Ming zhu Wang, sixth-year Olin PhD student in strategy
  • Aditi Vashist, fifth-year PhD student in organizational behavior

Academic conference committee

  • Daniel Elfenbein, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Sekou Bermiss, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Melissa Graebner, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Jorge Guzman, Columbia University
  • Amanda Sharkey, Arizona State University

Project timeline

  • September 2022: Kickoff in St. Louis to level set, build community knowledge base and shared understanding
  • November 2022: Academic conference, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC. Review data, interact with academics and policy experts
  • February 2023: San Francisco working paper session to finalize recommendations, test recommendations on regional entrepreneurs
  • April 2023: Launch event at Brookings


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