EntryPoint Aims to Increase Inclusion, Diversity in Startup Ecosystem

The tech industry and the investment community that funds it are notorious for being, shall we say, safe spaces for white men.

The myth of meritocracy persists in the tech world even in the face of data indicating a longstanding lack of diversity and inclusion. Innovation benefits from different perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas, but it’s hard to access those ideas if one is in an echo chamber—to the entire ecosystem’s detriment.

That’s why EntryPoint, a new effort to advance inclusion in the local entrepreneurial community, is underway in Michigan. Founded by Emily Heintz, who stepped down this week from her position at the Michigan Venture Capital Association to focus on EntryPoint full-time, the company says it will work with entrepreneurial service providers and startups to create a more inclusive organizational culture, expand networks, and conduct research for educational and advocacy purposes.

“I think over the past 10 years, we’ve seen so much growth in the entrepreneurial community and there are so many exciting companies that I wanted the flexibility to plug in where I can be most helpful,” she explains, saying that the rest of the year will be spent brainstorming exactly how that will look. “I’d like to help economic developers understand the venture capital community and use a data-driven approach to develop programs and resources, and increase connections within Michigan, helping people access investors and get in the right rooms with the right people.”

Talent is one of the biggest issues when it comes to growing entrepreneurship and bettering the state’s economy, and Heintz says increasing access for a wide talent base “will really help accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurial community and broaden the ecosystem.”

Unraveling unconscious bias will also be central to EntryPoint’s mission, she says.

“It’s predominantly white and male networks in the startup and tech communities,” Heintz points out. “Helping to broaden networks and the entrepreneurial ecosystem will help address the talent gap. Unconscious bias training helps investors understand their own bias and gives them the tools to overcome it in their investment strategies. That will help increase the amount of capital going to businesses [led by a diverse founder].”

Heintz has assembled a powerhouse advisory board to provide EntryPoint with “advice and counsel,” she says, including Trey Boynton, Duo Security’s diversity and inclusion manager; Patti Glaza, managing director of Invest Detroit; Ted Serbinski, managing director of Techstars Mobility; and Monica Wheat, partner at Venture Catalyst.

While Michigan’s entrepreneurial culture has been steadily growing over the past decade and contains close-knit networks, those networks are largely siloed, Heintz says. “There is very little overlap between networks. I see opportunities available for people in the ecosystem, and broadening those networks will do a lot toward connecting people with those opportunities,” she adds.

Heintz is currently funding EntryPoint herself, but she hopes to eventually partner with philanthropic foundations. She also plans to add up to two employees by the end of the year.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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