DreamIt Access, DreamIt Ventures‘ minority entrepreneurship program in partnership with Comcast Ventures, is going strong. Since its launch in fall 2011, the program has graduated 15 minority-led companies, including six during the most recent DreamIt cycle, we previously reported. It’ll continue in the next New York City cycle.
We wanted to learn more about the DreamIt Access team’s experience, so we asked each participating startup: What’s the hardest thing about being a minority entrepreneur? Here’s what they had to say (via email, unless otherwise noted).
Starsky Eustache, cofounder of Vizy: “The higher you go [in the ranks of business], the less people look like you,” Eustache told us in an interview last month. “So even if it’s not mentioned, you’re always conscious of it because no one else looks like you.”
Khushboo Shah, founder of Cloudamize: “For me, the toughest thing as a minority entrepreneur is being a mom. I have two little girls, one is 1.5 years and the other is 4 years old. Not being able to balance being a mom and an entrepreneur is extremely hard for me and my family. […] I have met over 500 people over last 6-9 months and most of them are men, whether that is customer, investor, potential employee or a service provider. And I have gotten all kinds of feedback. For an entrepreneur, a typical day has many ups and downs and the challenge is how quickly one can recover and make the most out of it. The challenge for me is not only to do that but also get over the negative feedback that I occasionally get because of being an Indian woman.”
Vinny Pujji, founder of TrendBent: “Fortunately, I’ve never noticed that I’m a minority entrepreneur. I don’t think the startup community has ever negatively judged my turban and beard — if anything, they’ve helped set me and TrendBent apart in a field where differentiation is a full time job.”
Atif Saddiqi, cofounder of NinjaThat: “I would say that I’ve never had a hard time being a minority entrepreneur. The great thing about working in tech industry is that it’s a meritocracy that rewards smart, hard working people that build awesome products. With that said, I believe it is important to bring awareness about tech entrepreneurship to different minority communities, so minorities know that starting or joining a startup is a viable option for their futures. ”
Mili Mittal, cofounder of mor.sl: “Being an ethnic minority is not an issue at all. I would say, though, that being a female entrepreneur in the tech startup world is slightly more challenging. The people in power positions in this industry are by in large still men, and whether we like to admit it or not, that makes a difference. It just means there are fewer female entrepreneur mentors/role models to access and learn from, an investment ethos largely informed by the male perspective (despite the fact that women the nation’s biggest spenders and most active gamers are women!), and less female talent available to recruit. In that sense, it can feel a little lonely, as I’m often one of a handful of women in the room. ”
Entrepreneurs from DreamIt Access companies Altair Prep did not respond to request for comment.
Updated 1/7/13 to add comment from Mili Mittal of mor.sl.