When Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith learned about the disparity in capital funding for startups owned by women and people of color, she did something about it. Less than 2 percent of venture capital investment went to women, and less than 1 percent went to black entrepreneurs.
That was in 2014.
Commissioner Smith led the County’s investment effort to help to create one of the nation’s first public-private venture capital funds focused on helping small startups run by women and people of color. The County invested $500,00 in 2016. Partnering with Prosper Portland (formerly Portland Development Commission), Gov. Kate Brown and Business Oregon, the $3 million Inclusive Fund was launched. The County invested another $150,000 in 2018.
Fast forward to July 2018.
One of the 19 startups that received funding from the Inclusive Fund has secured a record-breaking $25 million private investment after just two years. The Beaverton-based firm RFPIO, the leading provider of cloud-based RFP (Request for Proposal) software noted in a news release that it “will pay off nearly 80 percent of its Elevate Capital Fund and return capital back to both public and private investors in the firm’s Elevate Inclusive Fund."
"I believe that small investments can leverage big outcomes,” said Smith. “Our seed money has helped create jobs and brought successful investments into our community. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to find the successes our community needs."