Our Vision For 2020
Access Ventures is a catalyst working to build a more inclusive and creative economy and fundamentally believes our current economic system, while good for some, perpetuates exclusion that continues to marginalize the most vulnerable among us. A free market is worth preserving – but every system should strive for better.
At Access Ventures, we envision an economy that functions for all people:
1. We believe true inclusion involves seeing all people (of diverse identities and backgrounds) as valuable. And that each person offers unique contributions to our communities and economies.
2. We believe that at its core, the economy represents not just an engine for industry, but an opportunity to demonstrate this inalienable dignity of all people.
3. Therefore, a system that prioritizes people will be more inclusive and creative.
This is why we work every day to identify ways in which we can play some part in making our economy and communities more abundant and hopeful and less driven by fear and scarcity.
2019 In Review
In 2019, Access Ventures celebrated our 5 year anniversary! We saw this past year as a year of depth in working to assess our impact to-date and of truly pressing into our work around conscious portfolio construction, as well as the one-pocket mindset that drives each of our decisions. We set out to answer this fundamental question: Can we change the way people relate to money, investments, and community development by providing tangible solutions for them to see and experience in order to promote the flourishing of all people?
This past year was a year of depth in working to assess our impact to-date and of truly pressing into our work around conscious portfolio construction and the one-pocket mindset.
In the pursuit of that we took a hard and long look at our work in Shelby Park; launched a $3M Reconstruct Challenge around innovation in housing, but more specifically, the growing ancillary costs of housing; completed year two of our national creative initiative in partnership with VSCO called VSCO Voices that identifies and invests in emerging creatives using their craft to share the stories of marginalized communities; launched a new loan servicing product called Lenderfit – developed from our experiences in deploying capital through small businesses; and expanded our investments in early stage blockchain technologies.
Issues and Opportunities
The widest category of today’s business community does not fit the sensationalized Silicon Valley model of zero to exponential value in a short timeline. It’s a model that, while viable for some, has created an unintended gap in access to capital for the majority. Furthermore, traditional lending has proven exclusionary to many start-ups for a variety of reasons. Over the last two years, we have seen a renewed interest by investors and entrepreneurs alike in exploring new and more diverse approaches to financing and in approaches that might re-order the power dynamics experienced in what has become entrenched as venture financing.
The sheer volume and scale of money in the venture capital space has roughly tripled over the past 15 years. It’s a trend reflective of growth in the entrepreneurship space overall, as well as the result of an enormous amount of wealth existing in a small slice of the economy. As of 2017 (and growing), the U.S. topped the Global Entrepreneurship Index, with over 27 million Americans starting or running new businesses and those 27 million Americans don’t look quite like they did 20 years ago. They’re increasingly Latinx and Asian, with a greater share of women at the helm, in locations across middle America. But the growing diversity of the individuals leading startups has highlighted opportunities to transform approaches to funding. Whether individuals are leading small, local startups or transformative, scalable enterprises, it’s become clear that traditional means of accessing startup capital are limited by gatekeepers and infrastructural flaws. In some cases, these challenges are the result of the business model—those who came of age during the 2008 recession or are from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to build the illiquid models that venture capitalists tend to prefer. In other cases, the challenges stem from the ever-present question of ‘who you know’.
Out of all these contributing factors is an emerging demand not only to solve funding problems but also to create new, sustainable funding models
Perhaps most importantly, the issue remains that rural, poor, and minority America is becoming increasingly disadvantaged. Investors’ and entrepreneurs’ obsession with venture capital, that “once-in-a-lifetime-savior-funding”, is the exact funding that’s structurally least likely to meet the challenges facing rural, poor, minority Americans. If anything, it continues to exacerbate issues stemming from lack of generational property ownership.
Out of all these contributing factors is an emerging demand not only to solve funding problems but also to create new, sustainable funding models…and 2020 looks to be the year we continue to see some exciting alternatives to equity and traditional models that ideally will lead to increased access to capital. And where better to start than our own backyard? Specifically, we are excited to launch with more detail in the coming weeks, a new fund of Access Ventures as a regional approach to solve critical gaps we see everyday in providing risk-tolerant capital.
The impact of entrepreneurs on our communities and economies cannot be overstated because entrepreneurs:
1. Boost economic growth with the introduction of innovative technology, products and services
2. Introduce new competition to the marketplace, forcing existing firms to become more competitive
3. Provide new jobs both immediately and in the long term
4. Raise the overall productivity of firms and economies
And as the profile of the entrepreneur continues to evolve, these benefits will expand into new communities who have historically been excluded from growth like this. To be able to lean into the possibilities of diverse entrepreneurial activity, we must creatively innovate our approach to every point in the startup journey, beginning with funding.
These exciting new areas of exploration – alongside our existing work such as our creative endeavors with VSCO Voices and CreativeMornings; the continuation of our work with the Reconstruct Challenge in our local market; expansion of our investments in blockchain; and, the further explanation and depth around the viability of our one-pocket mindset and conscious portfolio construction, make 2020 an exciting year in which we hope to learn and grow.