Something Serious Is Missing From Your Shark Tank, Mark Burnett

It’s Shark Tank Week and I have a question for the show’s creator, Mark Burnett: Where are the women of color sharks?


Image: ABC Medianet


In 2012, only 22% of U.S. angel investors were women and only 5% were minorities, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire.

The numbers are low, but they’re not zero.

So why are zero women of color featured on Shark Tank?

I founded the Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing bootcamp for women, to increase diversity in the U.S. angel investing community and create capital for women social entrepreneurs.

Since launching its first angel investing bootcamp in April 2011, the Pipeline Fellowship has trained over seventy women, who have committed more than US$350k in investment, and has expanded from New York City to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C..

“Before today, I didn’t think I could be an angel.  After seeing myself reflected on each panel, I realized that I could,” an attendee of the inaugural Pipeline Fellowship Conference, an all day event on angel investing, shared with me after my closing remarks.  A woman of color, she had been inspired by the women and people of color influencers in angel investing, venture capital, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and impact investing we had invited to speak.  There were a few white male speakers--for diversity.

According to The White House Project’s Marie Wilson, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Diversity makes for good conferences and good TV.

While Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner haven’t shared screen time, it’s time we had a season with at least two female sharks in the same episode.

When will there be at least two female sharks on the same #sharktank episode, @mcuban? #changetheratio #morevoices cc @MarkBurnettTV

— NataliaObertiNoguera (@nakisnakis) September 9, 2013

Can’t think of women of color to invite to Shark Tank?

Fear not--I have some suggestions.

One of the first things that a shark needs is money--angel investing is risky.  Sofia Vergara has plenty of it--she was named the top-earning female actor for the second year in a row by Forbes.  It pays to speak more than one language.

According to entrepreneurs, some of the most helpful angel investors have been successful entrepreneurs themselves who have an insider’s perspective on what works (and doesn’t) in the day to day and can offer practical advice.  One distinction between securing a loan and giving someone an equity stake in a business is that the latter is deemed to be “smart money.”  Funding a company isn’t just about financial capital, it’s about human and social capital--the skill-set and network that an angel can bring to the table.  Women 2.0 compiled a list of female founders whose companies have had successful exits.  The list spotlights several women of color, including Prerna Gupta, whose startup Khush was acquired for an eight-figure deal in cash and stock; Rashmi Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO of SlideShare, which was acquired by LinkedIn for US$118 million; and Wendy Tan White, Co-Founder and CEO of Moonfruit, which was acquired by Yell (now Hibu) for US$29 million in cash.

One more recommendation: Judy Smith, the real-life Olivia Pope.  As Paul Graham reminded us, rather offensively, an entrepreneur’s success depends on being an effective communicator.  Her tough love feedback would greatly benefit any entrepreneur pitching on Shark Tank.

Here at the Pipeline Fellowship, we’re changing the face of angel investing.  I invite Mark Burnett to join us.

Interested in becoming a shark?  The Pipeline Fellowship can help.

The Pipeline Fellowship has opened a call for applications for its fall 2013 angel investing bootcamps in Chicago, LA, and SF. To submit an application, go to:   Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis and will be accepted until Friday, September 13, 2013.

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