#WealthInColor: Accessing Albuquerque’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

The goal of the Start Up, Stay Up, Scale Up [SU(3)] initiative was to ensure that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albuquerque recognized founders of color who are currently seeking, or have the potential to acquire, angel or venture capital funding and to develop support for them. Through the project, Albuquerque’s ecosystem continued to evolve and become much more accessible, connected and functional. The local team identified existing entrepreneurs of color, conducted interviews to assess gaps in the ecosystem, created a portfolio of entrepreneurs to better connect them with each other and began to create an infrastructure to address the gaps in financial and social capital. Specifically, the local team heard how Albuquerque founders of color experienced unequal access to professional business development opportunities, second stage investment capital and mentorship.

To better understand the evolution of Albuquerque’s ecosystem, Living Cities worked with Kelli Cooper at the Albuquerque Community Foundation to map the players and resources present that support Black, Latinx and Native entrepreneurs. With their expertise, we’re able to show the issues inherent in the system across different types of support. They acknowledged that one size does not fit all in terms of the capital and technical assistance that could be offered to entrepreneurs from different cultures, in addition to the stage of their businesses. The local team was also conscious of harmful narratives that influence investors to think of founders of color are risky investments or worse, as obligatory charity.

The team pursued and explored these potential solutions:

  • Establish a tech transfer joint office for Sandia National Labs, Air Force Research Lab, Cecchi Venture Lab at Innovate ABQ
  • Develop capital access through a Racial Equity Fund
  • Develop Navigator to Acceleration to connect founders of color to affordable professional business services
  • Encourage peer networks and mentorship for entrepreneurs of color

Our intent with this graphic is to provide a visual representation of what exists for entrepreneurs in Albuquerque and what doesn’t, so that ecosystem builders can consider the solutions and connections that can be developed or strengthened. It’s important to note, however, that solutions need to include dismantling the institutional racism inherent in service organizations and local government policies and programs. As with the other cities in SU3 cohort, Albuquerque has to overcome the systemic barriers that have prevented businesses owned by people of color from thriving. At the same time it has the opportunity to build an equitable and inclusive ecosystem with intention, understanding of its racial history, and a commitment to sustainable investments.

As you browse the graphic, see the technical assistance landscape from the perspective of an entrepreneur looking for support to start up a business versus scaling up a business. Consider what markets are identified locally and in the region. Review the providers of capital and think about what long-term and sustainable investment means for Native American entrepreneurs.

After clicking through the various support structures, reading about the challenges for entrepreneurs of color, and considering how you can help implement proposed solutions, we recommend checking out our SU(3) Medium publication to read more about what Albuquerque ecosystem builders are doing to address these issues.

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