Interview: OHUB’s Rodney Sampson Speaks About Eship Collaboration and Groundbreaking Certification Programs
New Collaboration and Certificate Programs to Create a More Equitable and Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
The Entrepreneurship (Eship) Center continues to reaffirm our commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do. A diverse and inclusive workforce is key to the success of any venture — and to our community at large.
The Eship Center is proud to work with Rodney Sampson’s OHUB and 100 Black Angels and Allies Fund to offer two new courses through Scale School — one to help organizational leaders create more equitable and inclusive workspaces and one to help build a more equitable ecosystem for aspiring Black and ally investors. You can learn more about the DEIS Practicum Certificate program here or the Black Technology Ecosystem Investment Certificate program here. Both programs will be delivered through The Eship Center’s Scale School. Each program kicks off with an introductory webinar in June, with monthly classes running from August 2021 through January 2022.
Sampson, a successful entrepreneur, investor and ecosystem developer committed to empowering others, currently holds the Keohane distinguished visiting professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. He is now engaging in multiple ways to create a more inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem. He is the co-founder, executive chairman & CEO of the Opportunity Hub, as well as General partner of 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund. He also holds a number of university and research-related positions, including nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Rather than just focusing on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), Sampson’s model of DEIS adds another element. “S stands for structural, strategy and solutions,” said Sampson. “We wanted to be intentional about branding our work as ‘DEIS’ because it is solutions oriented with measurable impact.” He also noted that he wanted to bridge it back to the meaning of dais, which can conjure the image of an event at which a company celebrates its employees, work and accomplishments. “I want people to think about whether they would be proud of the dais of their company,” said Sampson.
Together with Rodney, the Eship Center is launching the DEIS Practicum Certificate program, designed to help organizational leaders (including c-suite, founders, and boards) of high-growth companies create and integrate solutions that bring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into all facets of a company.
“This certificate is not for people who need to be convinced of the value of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Sampson. “This is for people who want to move the needle, measure change and hold people accountable with data and outcomes.”
Guided by nationally known experts, participants will critically examine key business functions such as board governance, talent acquisition, product development, procurement, and investment through a lens of equity and inclusion
“What’s great about this certificate is that students won’t just be hearing from academics and theorists but from practitioners who are subject matter experts who practice this in their business,” said Sampson. “They will talk from experience on how they built equity into their organization and which strategies and procedures actually work.”
They will be guided through the process of developing their own DEI strategy, including a DEIS canvas and roadmap. Throughout the program, they will implement and gain feedback in real-time from experts and trusted peers. At the conclusion, each participant will receive a DEIS Practicum Certificate, will have completed an implementable strategy document and will have access to the DEIS content as a reference and guide for the future.
Another unique attribute of this certificate program, like other Scale School courses, is the interaction and shared learning that occurs between the participants as they connect in group discussions. How each participant applies what is taught in the class to his or her organization will be different, but the learnings are shared through experiencing it together in real time.
“This is going to be a very interactive safe space, with no cancel culture,” said Sampson. “If you lead an organization, you want to take this course whether you’re leading a startup, growth company, publicly traded company, venture fund, PE fund, university or foundation. Not only will diversity, equity and inclusion increase the economic output, innovation and creativity of your organization — as numerous research studies have shown — it’s beyond the right thing to do.”
Sampson is also excited about the second certification program he is creating with the Eship Center, designed for aspiring Black and Ally investors that want to specifically invest in Black technology, startup and venture fund ecosystem deal flow.
“While the first program addresses intersectional racial equity inside of an organization and industry, this course addresses another way to create equity and inclusion in the ecosystem which is through investment,” he said. “With the recent modernization of SEC rules on who can become an accredited investor, I see an incredible opportunity of creating a new class of investors in the Black community and beyond.”
Covering topics such as modernization of SEC regulations, development of an investment thesis, startup investing, venture fund investment, equity crowdfunding, SPAC’s, risk assessment, diligence considerations, legal considerations and tax considerations, this comprehensive program provides hands-on learning into what it takes to become an investor in early-stage companies and venture funds, particularly companies with Black founders and fund managers. Participants will learn from nationally known subject matter experts, investors and founders and gain first-hand experience with what it takes to confidently invest in a way that advances racial equity.
“When I was a founder 20 years ago, I would go to some of the most prestigious people in the Black community, but I couldn’t convince anyone to invest in this high-risk category,” said Sampson.
“Less than one percent of Black founders receive capital, with only a little over 200 people in the last 20 years,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be one of the first. When you realize that there have only been about 200 Black founders in the last 20 years — yet in 2019 over 11,000 firms received capital — you can see the racial gap and opportunity for transformation change.”
Sampson believes that participants in this course can help reduce this gap and increase employment in the Black technology, startup and venture ecosystem.
“Last year, 39% of Black lost their jobs because of the pandemic and 41% of Black businesses shuttered ,” said Sampson. “Yet, there are enough people in the Black community like The Links, HBCU alum and our allies who are specifically interested in investing in this area. We want to make sure Black fund managers and Black founders, who are disproportionately underfunded, receive funding.”
“This certificate will help unlock capital that is on the sidelines and get it to work in the ecosystem,” he said. “Successful Black-owned companies hire more Black people. One of the ways to address high unemployment in the Black community is to create more Black-owned, high growth companies.”
Sampson, who has experienced tremendous success in entrepreneurship, including several exits, is passionate about closing the racial wealth gap. “I was fortunate enough that two of my co-founders in my first tech company helped us raise over $4 million, which I couldn’t have done without them,” he said. “There were things that I had to learn by doing that I want to teach others now. And to change the landscape, we want to normalize Black technologists, Black tech founders and Black fund managers.”
He is glad to have found a partner in the Eship Center. “The Eship Center is open, nimble and willing,” said Sampson. “Our relationship feels very entrepreneurial. We’re able to be creative and build within systems as they are being built. I want to leave a legacy and leave a place better than when I came. I’m excited about this collaboration.”