Building a More Inclusive Network for Entrepreneurs

04/27/2017 | By Lesa Mitchell

This post originally appeared on

When you receive an invitation to meet Anita Hill and spend time with Ellen Pao, you go. And later, you share the experience with others.

Mitch and Freada Kapor have been personal guiding lights for me on the topic of inclusion for a long time. They challenge my own understanding, sometimes beating me up but, always making me better. Recently, they hosted a sold out event in San Francisco that allowed all of us to Reimagine Equality - cleverly titled after one of Anita Hill’s books.

After working in support of greater inclusion in and around entrepreneurship since 2004, it is difficult not to be frustrated that Anita and Ellen became “famous” for similar reasons twenty-six years apart. Anita Hill with her famous Clarence Thomas sexual harassment case, Ellen Pao after her lawsuit for gender discrimination with a Silicon Valley VC firm. These two women changed the conversation about bias and harassment.

One of the reasons (on top of sheer admiration of the team) that I joined Techstars was and is the opportunity to take everyday action in supporting and growing a worldwide ecosystem of entrepreneurs that are inclusive. I am happy to work in an organization that pushes us each day to assure inclusiveness in everything we do. A work in progress.

In 1931, J.T. Adams wrote the Epic of America, which is highlighted in one of Professor Anita Hill’s books. “A dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be ...recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

At Techstars Kansas City, we are in the process of selection for our first Techstars class and I am keeping this quote top of mind every day. We are looking for companies that will have a positive impact on lives if they scale and founders who are uniquely capable of scaling those companies - regardless of birth or position.

In the process of applications and interviews, I have talked to a number of entrepreneurs who say - I’m too early in the process but I wish there were ways in which I could engage with you and get ready. At Techstars, we have a broad network of opportunities like Startup Weekend and Startup Week to help you get ready.

For individuals in the midwest, take advantage of Startup Weekend Kansas City, I will be there looking for 2018 Techstars applicants that are getting ready. I hope to see lots of new faces there and commit to a weekend of inclusion and support for you.