FirstGeneration is an initiative to further immigrant and first-generation startup founders in New York City in an attempt to address socio-economic and cultural inequality in early-stage startups. We believe that if given access and support, founders from non-traditional backgrounds can continue to build generation-defining companies. Our goal is to support tech and tech-enabled startups that are post-product and pre-Series A through tactical workshops and community building dinners.
Despite record levels of VC funding and recent diversity initiatives, access to capital and opportunities remain concentrated for the affluent and well-connected. Immigrant and first-generation founders from less well-off means, and without Ivy League educations, often lack the networks, experience, and access to capital - both human and financial.
According to a recent report, 40% of VCs attended Harvard or Stanford. Networks are critical to the likelihood of success for early-stage startups - from initial funding to asking for help. This network concentration puts many immigrants and first-generation founders at a disadvantage. As such, most of the funding continues to stay in the network of the those lucky enough to be a part of those pre-existing networks.
Lack of educational and socio-economic diversity results in the industry continuing to invest in people that look like them, think like them and share an educational background with. As a result, despite many great initiatives, little progress has been made to broaden access to opportunities. In the long term, this narrow focus might have negative repercussions on the health of the US startup ecosystem and the wider economy.
We believe that no matter where you come from, being an immigrant in America is the great equalizer - new Americans find themselves in a foreign land, with limited means and with the goal of providing a better life for their families. Immigrants and first-generation Americans bring a fresh perspective and often possess qualities demonstrated to increase chances of success: hard work, resourcefulness, and perseverance. Nearly 40% of New York City is foreign-born, representing over 150 countries, yet this is not nearly reflecting in the backgrounds of early-stage founders. Despite the fact that 55% of unicorns have been founded by immigrants, representing over $248b in value (National Foundation for American Policy).