Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk, have teamed up to build a program that will provide professional mentorship for minority entrepreneurs in proptech.
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Two women in proptech leadership positions are aiming to extend their impact across the space with the launch of their co-founded accelerator, Equity Angels, according to a Jan. 16 press release shared with Inman.
Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk, have teamed up to build a program that will provide professional mentorship, fractional executives and fundraising preparation for companies started by entrepreneurs from diverse demographics. Both women will serve as managing partners of Equity Angels.
“The real estate industry is going through one of the most challenging times in history and is caught up in a perfect storm of low sales volume, high interest rates, the proliferation of AI and industry-wide paradigm shifts,” Burrell-VanWormer, who was Inman’s 2018 Person of the Year, said in the release.
Burrell-VanWormer was recognized by Inman for standing up to powerful forces, showing leadership, fortitude and thoughtfulness in engaging with a controversial and important subject for the real estate industry, which at the time was a proposed dues increase from the National Association of Realtors.
Citing a McKinsey report on diverse startup leaders that shows companies started by white males typically out-fund those launched by underrepresented founders, the pair hope to encourage minority entrepreneurs to take action on their ideas.
McKinsey found that “in 2022, Black and Latino founders received only 1 percent and 1.5 percent respectively of total U.S. venture capital (VC) funding. Women-founded teams received 1.9 percent of VC funds, and only 0.1 percent of VC funds went to Black and Latino women founders.”
However, as Equity Angels points out, “Achieving parity for women and minority founders could yield trillions more dollars in revenue, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.”
Burrell-VanWormer and Winston will seek out a team of experienced industry professionals in a range of specialties to guide its program members, who will participate in a six-month “fundraise-ready program” beginning in April 2024.
The Equity Angels program will also provide participants with access to fractional C-Suite leadership through high-level executives to “develop and scale their businesses at sustainable rates.”
Fundraising in proptech is down for both new and existing companies. The Center for Real Estate Technology and Innovation (CRETI) reported a drop of more than 42 percent in 2023, which suggests that access to capital will get even more challenging for those already neglected by the venture capital market.
A number of efforts inside the real estate industry have emerged in recent years, such as California Regional MLS’s venture fund and the National Association of Realtors’ REACH program. Neither is specific to assisting minority demographics but both offer a more direct understanding of how backed solutions can benefit the industry.
In summary, Equity Angels states its mission is to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the technology startup ecosystem through accelerator programs, executive placement and resources for growth. Its website has more information for aspiring proptech founders.