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Opus faculty Katherina Pattit shares her insights on entrepreneurship with Twin Cities Business podcast host Allison Kaplan

Moving Past Bias in the Start-Up Space

By Katherina Pattit, Associate Professor in the Ethics and Business Law Department at the University of St Thomas Opus College of Business

How do we move past bias in the start-up space? A lot of our biases work subconsciously. We know from research that once someone knows what his or her biases are, they have an opportunity to start counteracting that.

Harvard has a tool called the Implicit Association Test that allows people to find out if they have strong biases against gender, race, political orientation, etc. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows you have an implicit attitude that you didn’t know about. 

In the entrepreneurial space, it’s in the venture capital’s own interest to find out their biases. They can then ask themselves: “Am I missing out on opportunities because of how my mind subconsciously works? What kind of things do I need to be really careful about?”

Clarence Bethea is an entrepreneur of color who has raised $8.5 million for Upsie, despite odds stacked against him. “People invest in people who look like them," he says. "Venture capitalists are mostly white guys. I definitely don’t look like them.” 

A critical theme of Clarence's story is mentorship and finding those people who will help you. Is that a way we can fight some of the biases as well? Absolutely. Mentorship helps equalize the playing field.

Here's the thing about bias. Bias doesn’t necessarily make you have a more negative view of someone who’s not like you. But it does make you have a more positive view of people who are like you. It’s easier to give that person the benefit of the doubt.

In the entrepreneurial space, there’s so much you don’t know about a person's idea or who they are. So in having a mentor, it helps the entrepreneur get that leg up. Why? Because the mentor is almost like a proxy who can vouch for that person and give them professional networking opportunities. 

Bottom line: Get some mentors. Know your biases. And begin working to counteract them. 


Interested in hearing Clarence's story about being an entrepreneur of color in the venture capital space? Check out the full episode on the “By All Means” podcast with host Allison Kaplan.