Deldelp Medina | Black & Brown Founders
San Francisco, CA. Executive director of Black & Brown Founders. Connector and opener of doors. Ecosystem Builder. Daughter of a painter and writer/historian.
A Zebra is
… nimble. I grew up and currently live in San Francisco and I’ve seen all the changes that the city and the region have undergone as a result of the growth of Silicon Valley with a 10x-return-mindset. When you start a company that requires that type of investment, your ability to be nimble is severely limited. As a founder, you always wonder in the back of your mind, “How am I going to pay back this money in a way that makes sense to everybody?”
You’ve been given that money with the expectation that you are going to capture as much of the market as possible in whatever product or service you are offering.
The beauty of being a Zebra lies in the fact that you are always thinking about your customer first. On the surface, most entrepreneurs are allegedly following the lean startup approach, when in reality, they follow the investor-happiness approach which is: How do I make my investors happy while gaining customers and capturing my market share?
Depending on what you’re trying to build, those two things can be in opposition with each other, both the people who are building the product or service and the overall economic situation that we’re all living in. It’s unhealthy for everyone involved.
Profit over people: The broken status quo.
The current economic system is broken wherever I look. I see it when I think about…
- the fight that people are currently having over a $15 minimum wage
- the fight that we’re having over access to healthcare in the middle of a pandemic
- the environmental degradation in many communities and the effects that has on people’s health, specifically Indigenous, Black and/or Latinx folks.
All of those issues are tied to our current economic system in which we prioritize profit over people.
Deldelp’s vision for the future
For me an ideal future is one in which people are at the center of everything that’s being done:
- How people are being paid
- How people are finding fulfillment in their work lives
- How people are given the opportunity to grow as human beings
- How people are taken care of
Most of these things are currently tied to your job instead of your humanity. I hope that we find ways in which we engage with and put our humanity first.
Capital infrastructure: A more equitable and just economic system.
Let me talk to the people who have money: If you have more than $150,000 (USD) in your bank, or a million, or ten million, how is your money being used? Are you walking the talk? For example: if you are a foundation or institution that proclaims they fight for a greener future for our planet, yet the money in the endowment is actually being used to invest in things like oil or other extractive industries, there’s a disconnect at minimum and hypocrisy or a lie at most.
I know there are no great incentives for folks with money to live their values other than the fact that it’s the right thing to do. However, this misalignment causes us a lot of harm and deep distress; there were people who became millionaires and billionaires in the middle of a pandemic while other people, in the same country, are literally going hungry and becoming homeless.
As a person, institution or foundation, you must examine how your money is put to use. I’m sure it’s not a fun process but guess what? Being homeless and hungry is not a fun process either. It is deeply damaging to humanity, not just to those experiencing it but to folks over the course of generations; that instability is not something you shake off easily.
Community of the future
Community is at the center of my day-to-day work. As we speak, I have multiple emails from entrepreneurs who are asking for help. I spend most of my time trying to assist people with accessing resources (be it applying to an accelerator or making an introduction to someone with a valued expertise). My time and energy is spent figuring out how to help other people figure it out. This has shaped the path that Black & Brown Founders is on to create digital communities so that people can have access to each other on a moment’s notice.
For me, communities are at the center of everything we do because otherwise there is no purpose to our work.
A more equitable definition of ‘startup’
Hot take: we need to question what ideas we have around how a business gets started. An entrepreneur needs to know that a ‘startup’ is not the only means to achieve that end. There are different ways of building tech and tech-enabled businesses that are not centered around meeting investor metrics. In other words, a lot of the language and definitions around tech, tech-enabled businesses, and startups are investor-centric. In an alternative, more equitable future, we would redefine what these terms truly mean and how they can be achieved.
If, for example, software is going to “eat the world” as they say, we will need to redefine how that software is created and by whom.
We don’t know how to build startups without baking bias into it. It’s the only way we’ve known thus far.
Let’s redefine what ‘startup’ means. The next wave of startups should be more human-centered and built more carefully and equitably so that you actually have Black and/or Latinx and/or Indigenous folks leading these efforts to build products and services based upon our own experiences and expertise.
Deldelp’s role in supporting Black and LatinX founders
As executive director of Black & Brown Founders, I support entrepreneurs from all over the world. We’re an organization that primarily helps Black and Latinx founders build tech and tech-enabled businesses with little to no resources.
If you never receive a dollar of investment, how do you build your tech or tech-enabled business so that it’s financially viable and is actually creating a product or service that is needed within the market?
We have two distinct programs. One is our Bootstrapping Bootcamp, a 10-week virtual program that teaches promising Black and Latinx entrepreneurs how to turn their most valuable skills and ideas into a profitable tech business. We provide weekly call-in sessions, mentorship, and support, in addition to scholarships made possible by Microsoft for Startups.
The second program is CHROMA, a virtual conference and community that features Black and Latinx tech entrepreneurs, leaders, and subject matter experts from around the United States and internationally. We believe that community, inspiration and motivation are important but what’s missing from a lot of those conversations is the sharing of skill sets. We want to demystify what it means to build something. We have designers like Jason Giles, who shares design principles that founders should be aware of if they work with a designer. We’ve had folks talk about what alternative investment vehicles should look like to serve a wider range of founders. We’ve had experts from the cybersecurity space share the ways in which you can build a company so that you’re safe and that your customers are safe. And I can’t forget Perkins Coie whose awesome team of attorneys provided an in-depth understanding of intellectual property!
What does support look like?
First and foremost, of course donations and sustained giving are always helpful. We are planning CHROMA 2021 and are committed to paying all of our speakers as is our standard policy.
Secondly, if you have resources to deploy, think about how you can do so in a meaningful way! For example, when you’re looking to hire, engage or contract someone to support your efforts, look for folks who don’t look like you! If you need software services, for example, don’t hire the next Silicon Valley bro – find someone who looks different and spend your money with service providers who are Black and/or LatinX and/or Indigenous. Become a customer.
Deldelp asks the community…
What opportunities can you leverage to become an active citizen or community member in your area?
We are having conversations across the globe about the future of the economy and ending systemic racism but we are also still citizens of our local geography who want to make sure things in our direct environment get done.
The folks at Hey Summit have been a great partner this last year. Thanks to them we were able to host CHROMA 2020. Their platform holds all of CHROMA for us and people are still accessing this content. Not only has it been fantastic to work with them but to see how they’re building a tech product with a Zebra-lens has been a great experience for me as a leader of a non-profit.
Opportunities to connect
Make sure you subscribe to Rewriting the Playbook, the podcast by Black & Brown Founders!
For Black and/or Latinx entrepreneurs – existing and budding – if you’re looking for an opportunity to build your business and you want some help, come and join our bootcamp! We have scholarships available to make things affordable. We’re looking to help people go from idea to your first couple of dollars. We want to invest in people across the board: time, energy and effort. Our goal is to connect you to the resources you need to succeed!
San Francisco, CA. USA
Executive director of Black & Brown Founders. Connector and opener of doors. Ecosystem Builder. Daughter of a painter and writer/historian. Founding member of Zebras Unite.