5 Questions with Garry Johnson III, Founder of First Founders

Apr 28, 2021

In college, I started an annual business pitch competition to empower young men of color in my community. In 2017, I was awarded for Entrepreneurial Promise, Student Leadership, and Entrepreneurial Leadership. In 2018, I won the first HBCU.vc Pitch Competition held at Prairie View A&M University in Texas and graduated from Cohort #4 of Founder Gym. In 2019, I was recognized by the PA House of Representatives, won the NOIR Tank pitch competition, and graduated from Dorm Room Fund's Blueprint Project for underrepresented founders. In 2020, I launched First Founders Inc. to support other underrepresented & overlooked founders around the world.

01. What is the mission of your organization?

First Founders Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, is on a mission to lower barriers to entry and increase the likelihood of success in the innovation ecosystem by creating access to educational programming, relevant networks, and funding opportunities where entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds are challenged to meet their full potential and equipped with the resources necessary to thrive.

02. Why have you chosen to dedicate your career to this work?

I chose to dedicate my career to this work, because if not us, then who? That's a questions I ask myself all the time. We all have to do our part to contribute to building a more equitable and inclusive startup ecosystem where opportunity equally distributed. We have a principle at First Founders called 'Lift As You Climb,' and that's what it's all about. We each have our own journeys and lived experiences, so we have to take that knowledge gained and use it to build a better world, together.

03. What is the proudest moment of your work?

I take a lot of pride in just getting started. Launching First Founders was a challenge itself, and there were certainly individuals who did not believe in the mission or the need. I think every founder should be incredibly proud of getting their ideas out of their own heads, and pushing through every obstacle to be able to launch into the real world. Every time a community member shares how much this platform means to them, I'm reminded that the struggles were worth it.

04. What advice do you have for organizations that want to support the entrepreneurs you serve?

My advice for organizations that want to support founders is to get to know them. Organizations should spend plenty of time just listening to founders' stories, their challenges, their unmet needs, and their aspirations. I challenge these same organizations to take these stories to heart, and genuinely think about how they can support the growth and development of these early-stage founders. There should be more warm introductions to other orgs within the ecosystem who can help these founders succeed.

05. What gives you hope?

I'm constantly reassured that the world is becoming a better place because founders refuse to accept the status quo, and continue to come up with new ideas to build a better world. I'm given hope every time this founders present their visions for their startups and show up time and time again to see it to reality, regardless of the constant challenges & setbacks.