(DENVER, CO) — On December 1st, Access Mode, the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE), and Energize Colorado convened 15 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs in joining community leaders, and elected officials to share their perspectives around the barriers to success for Colorado’s Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander entrepreneurs. Access Mode’s inaugural cohort of founders, along with other Coloradan BIPOC tech entrepreneurs participated and shared the trials and the triumphs they are experiencing in building and scaling their tech businesses. The conversation included topics associated with access to early stage capital, student loan debt, issues with immigration, and access to diverse networks.
Access Mode works in partnership with mission-aligned organizations like Energize Colorado to ensure BIPOC entrepreneurs have equitable opportunities to start up and grow businesses in the state of Colorado and beyond, especially in Tech. As a national, nonpartisan research, policy, and advocacy organization in Washington DC, CAE works with policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch to dismantle barriers and obstacles that confront American entrepreneurs. CAE conducts roundtables with entrepreneurs around the country on a regular basis to understand the issues that matter most to them. By selecting Colorado as one of eight states this year to conduct a BIPOC roundtable, the perspectives of Colorado’s BIPOC entrepreneurs will inform policy nationally.
Research shows that entrepreneurship in the United States has been in decline for four decades. CAE works with policymakers to enact a policy agenda intended to improve the conditions for entrepreneurs and reverse the four-decade decline, with a special focus on BIPOC and women entrepreneurs.
John Dearie, Founder and President of CAE shared, “As in many other aspects of our society, women and people of color face challenges and obstacles that their white male counterparts do not. Moreover, in order to reverse the four-decade decline in entrepreneurship, we need much higher rates of participation by women and people of color. We have a special interest in talking with women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, and were thrilled to lead the roundtable organized by Access Mode and Energize Colorado.”
Having conducted 40 roundtables since CAE’s founding in 2017, the issues and challenges that get in entrepreneurs’ way are not unique from state to state. At the roundtable this month, many issues were raised including access to capital and the chances of revising the definition of accredited investor, the importance of networks and mentoring, headaches related to licensing and regulation, difficulty accessing government procurement opportunities, access to skilled talent, and student debt. The Colorado roundtable reinforced the issues raised at previous roundtables.
One issue that hadn’t come up at previous roundtables was the impact of the nation’s immigration policies on Hispanic entrepreneurs. Immigration reform – which is really a skilled talent issue – has been at the top of CAE’s policy agenda since 2017 and will be a major priority again in 2023.
Zaneta Kelsey, co-Founder and CEO of Access Mode, shared, “The entrepreneurs in Access Mode’s inaugural cohort are exceptional innovators that are solving a variety of complex issues in areas like Fintech, Sports Science, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and Immigration. Some of these founders have been working to bring their product to the global marketplace for years with very limited resources. During the roundtable, one of our founders shared that, ‘Access Mode’s accelerator has done more for them in the initial two months of the program than they were able to accomplish in years. Access Mode’s programming, which includes experienced subject matter experts and mentors, non-dilutive grants, service credits through partnerships with global providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), and a community of global BIPOC entrepreneurs who share their experiences in very authentic ways, is helping to propel our cohort forward, faster. While we are seeing gains with our inaugural cohort, the systemic issues related to access to capital and resources at different stages along the entrepreneurial journey, significant family responsibilities, student debt, and immigration are systemic and specific impediments BIPOC entrepreneurs face. Policy is one of the tools that can have a major impact on these barriers. We look forward to working more closely with CAE and Energize Colorado to amplify the voice of the BIPOC entrepreneur and convene the necessary parties that can help induce economic thriving inclusivity of these resilient founders.”
Wendy Lea, Co-Founder and CEO of Energize Colorado who also serves on the Advisory Board of CAE shared, “The Colorado entrepreneurial ecosystem is full of innovators and organizations like Access Mode whose mission is to uplift the most underrepresented founders and drive economic growth, job creation, and opportunity expansion to create a more resilient and equitable Colorado. Bringing CAE together with Access Mode was a strategic opportunity to raise the voices of Colorado’s BIPOC community to the national level.”
“The roundtable was filled with incredibly talented, creative, passionate, and persistent entrepreneurs,” shared Dearie. “We were impressed with the quality of the discussion and specificity of the recommendations – and as a result, hugely confident about the future of this country. Entrepreneurs are remarkable people who have the ideas, guts, and grit to take the risks that entrepreneurship entails, and our country and society owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Moving forward, CAE will take learnings from the BIPOC roundtable, develop potential policy solutions – either legislative or regulative – and work with key policymakers and their staff to bring these to life.
About Access Mode
Access Mode was founded by Zaneta Kelsey and Kevin Allen to address the unique challenges that Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander and Indigenous founders face, to provide them with: non-dilutive funding ($20k grant), personalized mentoring, service credits (up to $10k in partnership with local Colorado professional services companies), key content delivery by subject matter experts, and a supportive community as they usher early-stage founders along their entrepreneurial journey.
About the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE)
CAE is a nonpartisan research, policy, and advocacy organization whose mission is to engage policymakers in Washington and across the nation regarding the critical importance of entrepreneurs and startups to innovation, economic growth, job creation, and expanding opportunity – and to pursue a comprehensive policy agenda intended to achieve a stronger, more resilient, and inclusive U.S. economy through thriving entrepreneurship. If you are interested in supporting their work, visit https://startupsusa.org/donate. Send an email to [email protected] and [email protected].
About Energize Colorado
Energize Colorado is a nonprofit organization that brings together innovators and small business owners to collaboratively tackle the systemic challenges facing our small businesses and builds programs and solutions to empower small business innovation, resulting in a more resilient and equitable economy.