Gumbaynggirr man Les Delaforce knows all too well the barriers facing Indigenous entrepreneurs trying to navigate the world of venture capital.
Back in the mid-2010’s the Covocate and Dreamspark creator found himself being questioned about whether he fought or stole cars while in the boardroom with prominent individuals.
But he pushed through and succeeded, eventually building a platform which reshaped the hiring process to remove the kind of bias which led to predominantly white, male workforces.
Now leading Minderoo Foundation Generation One’s indigenous entrepreneurship program, Mr Delaforce is using his experience to help investors and Indigenous startups better understand how the other works through Dream Venture masterclasses.
“There’s a lot more mob seeing entrepreneurship as a viable pathway to employment, and then making a difference in creating a sustainable business,” he said.
“Indigenous startups generally have a social impact focus, so it’s harder to raise venture capital because it takes a longer time for that startup to create a return on investment.
“There’s ways you can grow as a startup, but then still have culture throughout the business throughout the venture.”
The masterclasses hope to build on the 11,500-plus Indigenous businesses identified by a Generation One-commissioned report which found they contributed nearly $9bn to the economy in 2020.
It is that drive which saw Mr Delaforce invited by the US Consul General to attend this year’s United States International Visitors Leadership Program.
The program provides opportunity for emerging leaders to experience American political, economic, social and cultural life through exchanges reflecting professional interests.
Mr Delaforce said the trip would enable in-person insight into some of the best practice capital projects in the world.
“Harlem Capital is a really good example a group of African Americans together, creating an angel investor fund with their own money,” he said.
“They grew into a $300 million fund with Microsoft, Google and other (venture capitalists) and corporates which backed it.
“So this now gives me that opportunity rather than reading online or Twitter or research, visiting these organizations, in person in flesh.”
Mr Delaforce is one of 15 entrepreneurs worldwide invited to the program.