All Raise, a nonprofit that focuses on increasing diversity within venture capital deals and decision makers, has named Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon as the new chief executive of the company. The appointment comes five months after Pam Kostka resigned as the helm of the nonprofit to rejoin the startup world.
Dixon has spent more than 10 years working to increase representation in the startup world. Prior to All Raise, Dixon was running Founder Gym, an online training center for underrepresented founders that ran 18 cohorts across six continents. A few weeks ago, Dixon announced that Founder Gym’s current cohort will be its last graduating class. The program, which landed a big partnership with Google without ever raising any external capital, is shutting down.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Dixon told TechCrunch in an interview this week. “I’m still doing what I’ve been doing, which is trying to make a more equitable ecosystem. I was a sixth grade teacher who did not know anyone in Silicon Valley prior to my entry into this world. I am all about and have been all about building bridges.”
Winding down was an unanimous decision among the leadership board, Dixon said, driven by the collective goal to “begin a new chapter in our professional journeys.” She was in the process of closing shop when the All Raise opportunity presented itself.
The through-line between both her gigs is obvious: Dixon spent years building a global company that wants to empower more historically overlooked entrepreneurs in their pursuit of building companies, especially in accessing more capital. Now she’s working at a larger organization to do the same, albeit with a more explicit focus on the venture capital industry.
Now boasting over 20,000 community members, All Raise was founded in 2017 by a cadre of women venture capitalists. The original founding team and members is composed of investors Shauntel Garvey, Eurie Kim, Stacey Bishop, Theresia Gouw, Dayna Grayson, Kirsten Green, Nairi Hourdajian, Maha Ibrahim, Rebecca Kaden, Aileen Lee, Jess Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, Ann Miura-Ko , Sarah Nahm, Stephanie Palmeri, Heidi Patel, Megan Quinn, Renata Quintini, Elisa Schreiber, Kristina Shen and Sarah Tavel.
Since launch, the Bay Area-based nonprofit has raised $11 million in funding, and opened regional chapters in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, and soon plans to launch hubs in DC and Miami.
Even though All Raise is a nonprofit born specifically to increase representation in tech, Dixon wants to bring a new level of inclusivity to the organization’s mission. Dixon was one of the first Black women in Silicon Valley to raise venture capital and to work at a venture capital firm, she says. The entrepreneur also had two children during the pandemic, which she says added another “expansion” of who she has evolved to as a leader.
“I also live these experiences of exclusion bias whether unconscious or conscious — being an only, being one of a few,” says Dixon. “I understand it because I have been very intentional about wanting to understand it. For All Raise, you can absolutely expect that to carry through in my leadership as we make sure that what we are capturing who we are supporting is really a more inclusive space for a realm of identities.”
There’s definitely room for Dixon to make a difference: All Raise has long-defined its goals — to increase the amount of seed funding that goes to female founders from 11% to 23% by 2030, and double the percentage of female decision-makers at US firms by 2028 — by looking at women in aggregate. But, as data shows, Black and LatinX women receive disproportionately less venture capital money than white women; non-binary founders can also face higher hurdles when seeking funding. These disconnects can be erased if not tracked separately.
The company doesn’t yet have within its current mission explicit goals on what impact it wants to have for historically overlooked individuals, a blindspot that Dixon alluded to will change. The new chief executive did not share specifics on what new focuses could be, but she said a priority is making sure that diversity is reflected on the All Raise leadership team. She is only one week on the job, so she’s still figuring out which roles and hires she needs to make.
“We are going to be very intentional about making sure our home base, starting with our own HQ, is diverse, inclusive and equitable,” Dixon said. “I think really leaning into being more inclusive for historically underrepresented women, non-binary leaders and making it a safe space of belonging, of community, for a broad group of women and non binary leaders is going to be of paramount importance.” She plans to announce diversity metrics within the All Raise community in Q2 2022.
Beyond increasing the definition of representation and spelling out more goals, Dixon’s other priority is operationalizing the programming that the nonprofit offers — which ranges from a virtual bootcamp to a program that connects entrepreneurs to open board seat opportunities. This would directly tap into what Dixon was building at Founder Gym. “Having strong success metrics that we define, that we hold ourselves accountable to” is important, she said, along with having a clear roadmap for what products they’re creating.
The next chapter of the nonprofit, in her eyes, is getting to a more representative spot in a timely manner.
“For me, time is of the essence, we need to move but we need to be thoughtful because we are a leader in this space,” she said. “We want to be seen as a thought leader and want to continue to earn that right to be seen as a thought leader.”
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