Jade Kearney is an entrepreneur and author best known as an expert on lean startups, as well as the co-founder and CEO of She Matters, a platform designed to improve mental health for Black women. She is also the founder of Black Girls in Tech Day, which has a conference Saturday, October 9th, where Kearney will debut her book Lean While Black.
Kearney created Black Girls in Tech Day to provide Black Female Founders in tech with an opportunity to network, learn and celebrate their unique contributions to the entrepreneurial community and to support founders.
Kearney has a background in diversity and inclusion and a Master’s degree in Digital Media Design from NYU. We asked her about the particular challenges facing Black female founders, the challenges to scaling for lean startups, and why it is so hard for female founders generally, and founders who are women of color in particular, to secure founding.
GD: You are the founder of Black Girls in Tech Day, which has a conference this Saturday. What is the mission of the organization?
Jade Kearney: The mission is to offer resources to BIPOC female founders in tech to change the narrative that only White and Asian men are a part of Silicon Valley culture. There are so many Black women leading innovative technology ventures and my goal is to make sure that we have a seat at the entrepreneurial table through awareness and funding.
GD: You have a new book, Lean While Black: Guide to Black Entrepreneurship. What are the particular challenges facing Black women who launch tech startups?
Jade Kearney: Funding, access and mentorship. They all are necessary for a successful venture. You can have a million dollars, but if you don’t have the connections or guidance to grow your money, being successful will be difficult.
GD: You’re a well known proponent of the lean startup model, but is there a limit to how far a startup can scale without raising capital?
Jade Kearney: Absolutely, in my book I touch on this. You can have all the mentorship in the world, but you need capital to grow your business. Now, there are a number of ways to raise money without “raising capital”, but those avenues are arduous and also dependent on your relationships, so either route you will need access and mentorship to receive funding.
GD: How difficult is it for women of color to raise capital?
Jade Kearney: I speak from the perspective of a Black woman and Black women only receive a percentage point of the capital raised. When you say women of color that includes Asians and Latin Women. Their journeys are different, because their relationship with money and race in America is different. For Black women it is extremely difficult to raise, because people see us as outsiders. No matter how much money I raise, when people see me they don’t think “Tech founder.” We have to change the culture to include us, so VCs and others don’t struggle to make the connection between our ventures and funding.
GD: You are co-founder and CEO of She Matters, a platform designed to improve mental health for Black women. How hard has the pandemic been on Black women?
Jade Kearney: This pandemic has been extremely hard on Black women. The number of Black women who have mental illness has doubled. As it stands we are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, but also the fastest growing group of people who experience mental illness. The disparities in health care have been exposed through this pandemic, but it is something that we in the Black community have to navigate daily. That is why She Matters exists we are here to change that and eventually do the same for other marginalized groups of women.