All Raise, a non-profit organization which focuses on increasing diversity within venture capital deals and decision makers, named Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon as the company’s new CEO. The appointment comes five months after Pam Kostka resigned as head of the nonprofit to join the world of startups.
Dixon has spent more than 10 years working to increase representation in the startup world. Before All Raise, Dixon ran Founder Gym, an online training center for underrepresented founders that ran 18 cohorts on six continents. A few weeks ago, Dixon announced that the current Founder Gym cohort would be his final promotion. The program, which landed a big partnership with Google without ever raising outside capital, is shutting down.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Dixon told TechCrunch in an interview this week. “I still do what I used to do, which is trying to create a more equitable ecosystem. I was a sixth grade teacher who didn’t know anyone in Silicon Valley before I came into this world. I’m all about and have been all about building bridges.
The liquidation was a unanimous decision within the board of directors, Dixon said, driven by the collective goal of “beginning a new chapter in our professional journeys.” She was closing up shop when the All Raise opportunity presented itself.
The line between his two gigs is clear: Dixon has spent years building a global business that wants to empower historically overlooked entrepreneurs in their quest to build businesses, especially to access more capital. Now she’s working in a larger organization to do the same, but with a more explicit focus on the venture capital industry.
Now with over 20,000 community members, All Raise was founded in 2017 by a group of female venture capitalists. The original founding team and members consist of investors Shauntel Garvey, Eurie Kim, Stacey Bishop, Theresia Gouw, Dayna Grayson, Kirsten Green, Nairi Hourdajian, Maha Ibrahim, Rebecca Kaden, Aileen Lee, Jess Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, Ann Miura-Ko, Sarah Nahm, Stephanie Palmeri, Heidi Patel, Megan Quinn, Renata Quintini, Elisa Schreiber, Kristina Shen and Sarah Tavel.
Since launching, the Bay Area-based nonprofit has raised $11 million in funding and opened regional chapters in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and soon plans to launch hubs in DC and Miami.
Even though All Raise is a non-profit organization born specifically to increase representation in technology, Dixon wants to bring a new level of inclusiveness to the organization’s mission. Dixon was one of the first black women in Silicon Valley to raise venture capital and work at a venture capital firm, she says. The entrepreneur also had two children during the pandemic, which she says added another “expansion” to who she grew into as a leader.
“I also have these experiences of exclusionary bias, whether unconscious or conscious — being one, being one of a few,” Dixon says. “I get it because I’ve been very intentional in wanting to get it. For All Raise, you can absolutely expect that to come to fruition in my leadership as we make sure that what we capture who we’re supporting is really a more inclusive space for a domain of identities.
There’s certainly room for Dixon to make a difference: All Raise has long set out its goals: to increase the amount of seed funding that goes to female founders from 11% to 23% by 2030, and double the percentage from women decision makers to America’s business by 2028 – looking at women as a whole. But, as the data shows, black and Latina women receive disproportionately less venture capital than white women; non-binary founders may also face greater hurdles when seeking funding. These disconnects can be erased if not tracked separately.
The company does not yet have in its current mission any explicit goals for the impact it wants to have on historically overlooked people, a blind spot that Dixon alluded to will change. The new chief executive did not share details on what the new goals might be, but she said a priority is to ensure diversity is reflected in All Raise’s leadership team. She only has a week on the job, so she’s still figuring out what roles and hires she needs to do.
“We’re going to be very intentional about making sure our home base, starting with our own headquarters, is diverse, inclusive and equitable,” Dixon said. “I think it will be of paramount importance to really look at being more inclusive for historically underrepresented women, non-binary leaders and making it a safe space of belonging, community , for a broad group of women and non-binary leaders.” It plans to announce diversity measures within the All Raise community in the second quarter of 2022.
Beyond increasing the definition of representation and articulating more goals, Dixon’s other priority is operationalizing the programming offered by the nonprofit — which ranges from a virtual bootcamp to a program that connects entrepreneurs to board seat opportunities. This would directly leverage what Dixon was building at Founder Gym. “Having strong metrics for success that we define, that we hold ourselves accountable for” is important, she said, along with a clear roadmap for the products they create.
The next chapter of the nonprofit, in his eyes, is coming to a more representative place in due course.
“For me time is running out, we have to move but we have to be thoughtful because we are a leader in this space,” she said. “We want to be seen as a thought leader and continue to earn that right to be seen as a thought leader.”
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