5 Questions with the Co-Founders of Founderland

Apr 01, 2022

Alina Bassi is a Chemical Engineer turned entrepreneur with a passion for sustainability. She runs the startup Kleiderly, working to keep textile waste away from landfills. She acts as a mentor to founders, is an advocate for women in STEM and business, and has been listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in the Manufacturing and Industry category.

Deborah Choi is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, with prior corporate marketing, media, and business development experience. She is a graduate of The University of Chicago, a BusinessWeek 25 under 25 for her first venture, and a recipient of Google’s first Black Founders Fund for Europe.

Stephanie von Behr is a creative and strategic marketing professional with experience working as a consultant, mentor, and employee across arts and culture, e-commerce, lifestyle, marketplace, and fashion. Before taking on the full-time role of Managing Director at Founderland, she was the Director of Strategy of Silicon Allee and the Berlin Founders Fund.

01. Give us the elevator pitch for Founderland.

Founderland aims to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs, by addressing the most underrepresented: women of color. Less than 0.5% of venture capital in Europe has gone to women of color founders, and we exist to increase the number of funded and resourced businesses run by diverse leadership. We believe doing so creates new representations of entrepreneurship for the next generation of founders.

02. How does Founderland create a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Founderland provides peer community, mentorship, free and discounted business tools & services, inspirational events + workshops, and support with fundraising via warm introductions and pitch preparation. We will be offering two investor-readiness accelerators per year starting in Spring/Summer 2022.

03. How will support from the Techstars Foundation and the Techstars network further the mission of your organization?

Founderland’s mission lies in building a new inclusive, intersectional standard for entrepreneurs. We believe doing so levels the playing field for all entrepreneurs, and creates new, diverse representations of leadership for the next generation.

We see the financial, programming, and mentorship support of Techstars Foundation and the Techstars network supporting Founderland’s mission in four key ways:

- Best-in-class mentors: Techstars has built the biggest, best, and most far-reaching global network of accelerator mentors across all disciplines. We’d love to tap into that brain trust to raise the bar for women of color founders going through our investment readiness boot camps.

- Investor network: Less than 0.5% of venture capital goes to women of color (WoC) founders, and we aim to improve that statistic by leveraging our shared networks to get more WoC founders into the pipelines of top funds. The ecosystem is powered by relationships and as a new name in the industry, we’d appreciate Techstars’ support in bridging conversations and introductions with funds.

- Programming team growth: The funding would enable us to transform one of our most vital roles – our Community Manager – from a part-time to a full-time team member. 

- Roadmap acceleration: The funding would also enable us to launch our ‘Next Gen’ programming next year. ‘Next Gen’ focuses on matching WoC founders with high school students from underserved communities in our city hubs across Europe.

04. How did you come to do this work and why is it important to you personally?

Like most mission-driven organizations, Founderland was born out of necessity.

Alina (of Indian British heritage) and Deborah (of Nigerian heritage) had migrated to Berlin, launched tech startups, and — despite many differences – found common ground in the challenge of fundraising while female and brown/black. They both sought out a community with support for founders at the intersection of gender, race, and ethnic identity, and unfortunately, that organization didn’t exist in Europe. So in late 2019, they started building and seeking help. And that help came in the form of their third co-founder Stephanie, strategic support from organizations including R/GA, Google for Startups, London & Partners, and eventually also financial backing via Google.org’s 2021 Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Founderland is important to us because we believe that inequality is a problem for all of us to solve together. Using an intersectional approach we are focusing on founders who’ve been often overlooked and left behind.

05. Share a success story.

We are proud of all 140+ women of color founders in our community, for overcoming many diverse challenges to build industry-leading, creative, sustainable businesses with impact. Many founders in our community have stated they are the first in their family to become an entrepreneur, and a majority have noted they founded their businesses without role models, external capital, networks, or visibility. That said, we’re also incredibly proud when Founderland can pave a clear path towards capital and information access. This was the case with Mihri Minaz, co-founder of Beams, who joined Founderland in July 2021.

Twice a month we introduce new Founderland members across our growing Linkedin community, where currently 7% are VCs and Angels. After introducing Mihri and her business, we received an email from an investor seeking an introduction to her. Two months later, that connection became a new member of Mihir's cap table.

Every week we announce the funding, speaking engagements, and other relevant opportunities for our Founderland members via our community Slack. In November 2021, one such opportunity was the Newcomer Award from Singa for new founders with a migration background. Mihri saw the opportunity via Founderland, and went for it! We were incredibly proud to amplify the news that she’d won 2nd place and received €7,500 in non-dilutive cash. 

Founderland is a participant in the Accelerate Equity program of the Techstars Foundation in 2022.

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