5 Questions with the Women Who Lead Zane Access

Jul 05, 2021

Shila Nieves Burney, Stefanie Diaz, and Anna Kanze Hamilton (left to right)

Shila Nieves Burney is the founder and CEO of Zane Access™️. She is an award-winning project manager who has spent her 20+ year career advocating for marginalized groups. She has worked closely with leading organizations and exceptional talent to create solutions that address disparities through investment in human capital. Shila founded Zane Access™️ with the goal of leaving no founder behind.

Stefanie Diaz, the Chair of the Zane Access™️ Board, brings 15+ years of experience in working with entrepreneurs and founders that spans entrepreneurship, strategic marketing, women’s initiatives, capital raises, and investor relations. She is the founder of multiple companies and networks, and a specialist in investor relations and screening and due diligence.

Anna Kanze Hamilton is Managing Director of Zane Access™️. She has worked in investment management and capital markets for 15+ years, with an emphasis on gender lens investing and access to capital for marginalized populations. She has also mentored startups and been on the Steering Committee of technical assistance facilities.

Zane Access is a participant in the Accelerate Equity program of the Techstars Foundation in 2021.

01. Give us the elevator pitch for Zane Access.

Zane Access™️ exists to break down systemic barriers to both access to the investment ecosystem and funding. Zane Access™️ produces events, programming, and content to provide diverse entrepreneurs with a powerfully connected community. Our offerings are designed to meet the unique needs of underrepresented founders by providing them with networks and mentors to help them champion and deploy their powerful, authentic voices and brands. Our programs and events attract founders and investors focused on diversity and inclusion across the country, and our cohort model gets results, with startups achieving six and seven-figure capital raises. Diversity is our superpower.

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

By giving diverse, early-stage founders the training, mentoring, and access to networks crucial to starting, funding, and scaling their startups, Zane Access™️ enables diverse founders to create their own future, generate jobs, and build intergenerational wealth. Since startups replicate their hiring patterns from inception to scale, supporting diversity in startups by definition supports a more diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem. By training and expanding networks for underrepresented founders, we build a more diversified investible pipeline for angel and VC investors, driving diversity throughout the startup ecosystem.

We understand the struggle to raise capital as an underrepresented founder because we too are diverse entrepreneurs. A critical component of Zane Access™️ is the perspective that our leadership brings as Black, female, LatinX, and immigrant entrepreneurs. We identify and connect with their experiences, we empower the founders in our care to be confident and find their voices.

Our activities include:

Programming: Our cohorts of 15-25 minority-led startups provide training in building investor pipeline, go-to-market strategy, and other capital readiness preparation through virtual sessions and mentorships. Our programs bring VCs and experts from across the nation for unparalleled exposure to the venture capital industry. For example, in our 2021 cohort, founders were introduced to a network of venture capitalists representing over $2B in assets under management. 

Access University: Our Scholars in Residence is a free program that gives diverse graduate students hands-on training in a venture capital and entrepreneur support organization, increasing opportunities for underrepresented students and rising entrepreneurs in venture and entrepreneurship. Along with experience, Zane curates intimate “Ask Me Anything” sessions with venture capital investors and thought leaders where our scholars make connections, ask questions, and expand their horizons. 

Content: Our weekly She Conquers Capital podcast which is designed for female investors, entrepreneurs, and their allies, a newsletter with over 5,000 subscribers, and regular thought pieces on our Medium channel.

Events: Zane Access™️ hosts a series of workshops and webinars on different entrepreneurship and venture capital topics, connecting diverse entrepreneurs and investors. 2021 kicked off with a Founders Only Night featuring Tope Awotona of Calendly just weeks after their historic $350M capital raise. The event generated over 700 registered attendees from across the globe.

03. How will the grant from the Techstars Foundation be used to further the mission of your organization?

The support from the Techstars Foundation and network will help us to expand both networks and opportunities for the underrepresented founders in our community. Sponsorships will allow us to reduce program fees, which are already a barrier for many startups looking to benefit from our programs, as well as increase our programming, events, workshops, and relevant content for underrepresented founders. Additional partnerships will help us increase benefits to our cohort members, like discounts on valuable software and tools that will enable our startups to scale.

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

Zane Access™️ was founded by Shila Nieves Burney, a Black LatinX woman to address systemic barriers to access to capital for underrepresented founders. Shila has always had a passion for helping marginalized groups.

Stefanie Diaz, a LatinX woman with roots in Puerto Rico, empowers founders of all backgrounds to conquer capital through her proven leadership as a founder, business leader, podcaster, and public speaker.

Anna Kanze Hamilton, a first-generation immigrant and daughter of serial entrepreneurs, understands the challenges of lack of resources and access to capital faced by diverse founders.

Our combined experiences and talents create a community to address systemic inequities and help diverse founders scale and prosper.

05. Tell us the story of a specific entrepreneur you are proud to have supported.

Cora Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Young King Hair Care, the first multicultural beauty and wellness brand for young men. Inspired by her son, she and her husband launched this company in December 2019 with the mission to redefine male grooming for the next generation. Zane Access ™️ provided Cora and the Young King Hair Care team with the tools and confidence to complete a successful 7-figure seed round raise within 6 months of graduation. Their products are now in Target, Walmart, and Nordstrom’s, and they have achieved $1 million in revenue only halfway through 2021.

Donate now and advance equity through entrepreneurship with the Techstars Foundation.