Funding Diversity

Diversity and inclusion challenges are central to all aspects of the economy. At The Impact Seat, we have special interest in tracing the effects of diversity and inclusion on innovation. We have applied our science-based approach to examine the entrepreneurial ecosystem, particularly on the funding side.

We believe that a technology future built on the ideas and experience of a broad set of minds and interests is the right approach. This means investing in science and businesses that recognize and benefit society inclusively. Why? Because it's fair to share the wealth among both producers and consumers in society. And also, because diversity of perspective and approach delivers a wider set of alternatives that help us as a society to prepare for the future's inherent uncertainty. Such diversity can deliver a wider set of answers that consider the needs and wants of groups historically excluded from the technology vision while others feed new interactions and understandings on a technology system basis of what's new, different, and valuable. Read more...

To build that future, entrepreneurs need resources: knowledge, networks, and access to funding. At The Impact Seat, we believe everyone should have equal access to these critical capital sources regardless of their demographic diversity dimensions -- sex, race, gender orientation, degree of physical ableness, religion, ethnicity, rural or urban status. We focus on three main areas of interest in considering access to capital.

Angel Investing

The Impact Seat has deep connections to the angel investing community. Co-founder Teresa Nelson serves as the Senior Director of Research and Policy for the international angel network, Astia. Read more on the opportunities for women-led companies in this white paper co-authored with Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek. Co-founder Barbara Clarke is a member of Pipeline Angels and one of the founding members of Astia Angels. Her portfolio of over thirty investments consists of companies across the US and in Europe. All of her direct investments had a woman on the founding team at the time of investment and a majority have a person of color. Many of The Impact Seat Advisory Council members are also angel investors who engage and speak regularly on entrepreneurship and investing.

Venture Capital

Despite being the fuel for much of the innovation of the past few decades, venture capital has a stagnant business model. Investor returns for the majority of venture funds are either negative or below market rates for capital.

The type of entrepreneurs who get funding fit a narrowly defined demographic. This lack of diversity distorts the types of innovation that makes it to market. The Impact Seat is working to change this by working with innovators in venture capital like the Portfolia Funds. In addition to Barbara Clarke who is both an investor and a member of the investment committee, The Impact Seat Council members Betty Francisco and Lorine Pendleton are also part of Portfolia. The goal is a revolution in venture capital to bring more innovation through diversity and inclusion forward.

Government Funding

The Impact Seat continues to work with scientists, institutions, and the government to increase access to public capital for women and other underrepresented groups. Teresa Nelson leveraged her role as a member of the National Women's Business Council (2014-2017) to examine ways to bring more capital to women-led scientific ventures. The Impact Seat Advisory Council includes Dr. Retsina Meyer, a neuroscientist, who was a leader in creating and delivering a one-day session on the government grantmaking process in partnership with MIT and federal government's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants office in 2016.

In September 2017, The Impact Seat hosted events at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council to think with, and hear from, Dr. Jennifer Shieh, Chief Scientist & Senior Technology Policy Advisor for the office responsible for policy coordination and development for SBIR grants, a program of the U.S. government that annually distributes more than $2B in non-dilutive funding to U.S. small businesses for cutting-edge, technology research and commercialization. Dr. Shieh noted in her remarks that women owned small businesses submitted only 16% of all SBIR initial proposals and only 13% of follow-on proposals in 2014, the last available data year (despite women now attaining more than 50% of Ph.D.s in the U.S. in key technology biology and chemistry areas.) For more, read here.


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