Disabled entrepreneurs face a backdrop of palpable disparities, inaccessibility and barriers to participation when attempting to grow their businesses.
Access2Funding is a new campaign challenging this reality. It is backed by investors and leading disability-focused organisations committed to improving equitable investment in disabled-owned and led businesses. The campaign pulls together the disabled community's entrepreneurs, collects never-before-captured data to paint a picture of the reality of disabled founders wanting to scale their businesses and helps investors create more accessible systems and processes.
Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Einstein. Every individual is disabled yet rose to the top of their sectors and historical significance because of their brilliance. Despite many of the greatest thinkers and creators of all time coming from disabled communities, disabled entrepreneurs still struggle to be taken seriously as innovators.
There is a clear case for investing in disabled founders. To be a successful founder, you must balance determination, resilience, communication, creativity, time management, adaptability, and problem-solving. These traits over-index within disabled people, but there is still a predominantly medical and charity-focused lens regarding support, despite 25% of small businesses and disabled founders contributing almost 9% of the UK's GDP.
The current outlook for disabled founders is bleak. A recent internet search yielded around 3.1 billion results for 'founder', around 1.2 billion for 'black founder', about 400 million for 'female founder' and only 2.5 million for 'disabled founder'. Despite being the largest minority group in the world and over 20% of the UK population, that is only 0.1% of share of voice.
Access2Funding aims to correct this oversight by achieving three outcomes.
- Firstly, collecting ground-breaking data on disabled founders' current barriers when growing their companies.
- Secondly, sharing learning and helping the global investment community offer more significant and equitable support to disabled founders and their companies.
- And thirdly, growing a community of disabled founders and smashing the stigma around ability and capability through storytelling.
Access2Funding provides ample opportunity for early-stage investors. The authoritative collected data so far stipules that 81% of disabled founders have experienced inaccessible systems when applying for funding and that 95% have faced explicit exclusion when seeking funding opportunities. This is the reality disabled founders are working against.
To paint a financial perspective, looking at the average percentage of successfully funded companies sitting at 0.2% and most pre-seed funds seeking 80-100 times return, this means that not investing in disabled-owned businesses leaves over half a billion on the table a year.
It is time to call upon early-stage investors to break down barriers and improve accessibility, sending a clear message to disabled founders that you are genuinely committed to Access, Diversity, and Inclusion.
We are in a time of economic uncertainty. One of the most vital routes to stability is nurturing home-grown entrepreneurialism. It is time that businesses stop underestimating the value of disabled innovation and work together to unlock one of the most under-tapped opportunity pools in the world.
Written by Celia Hensman (The Disability Policy Centre) & Joseph Williams (Clu)