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February 7, 2022

Fōkcus creates sustainable pathways to entrepreneurship for women, people of color and veterans in San Diego County through mentorship, partnership and intentional funding. Here, the team at Fōkcus describes the power and value of diversity in business-ownership, workforce development and community partnership.

Can you talk about some of the challenges our community faces and how you’re working to overcome them?

Bunker Labs Demo Day5 ResizedEconomic research shows the rate of startup launches in the United States has fallen to nearly a 40-year low in all 50 states, in 360 metropolitan areas and across a broad range of industries. However, evidence consistently shows that mentoring is a key factor in improving startup survival rates[1], and it is the foundation of all Fōkcus products and services. 89% of mentored businesses survive[2], and 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years, double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses[3]. 77% of mentored businesses create or retain jobs[2]. Fōkcus’ A-B-C methodology uses assessments, business content and capital to support programs and diverse entrepreneurs. We’ve helped over 5,000 founders and created over 30,000 mentor matches with our network of 200 partnerships since 2016. Additional information can be found in this article, where we were locally highlighted in the San Diego Business Journal.

How else is Fōkcus impacting the community?

Women, BIPOC and veterans are under-represented in entrepreneurship. “In venture capital financed start-ups, only 9% of entrepreneurs are women”[4] and “African-Americans are under-represented compared to their general population numbers, with just 9% being entrepreneurs.[5]” From 1996 to 2015, the percentage of veterans and women founding companies has dropped as much as 8%[6]. Our team focuses on supporting diverse founders, who are helping to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We have facilitated over 200 City Highlights, which are “Shark Tank” events for startups throughout the community at local universities, business clubs, WeWork, Apple retail locations and online to give additional support to our female-, veteran- and BIPOC-led companies.

Any partnership highlights you’d like to share?

Fōkcus was created at the University of Southern California where Kurling Robinson, our founder, studied computer science and went back to be a mentor to startups on campus after he successfully exited three businesses. Our team at Fōkcus enjoys working with universities, and especially with California State University San Marcos and their Innovation Hub, which helps us support female, veteran and BIPOC founders in North County San Diego. We also have a strong partnership with CONNECT ALL at the Jacobs Center, which offers ambitious and diverse local entrepreneurs access to the support they need to transform their businesses throughout San Diego. Kurling Robinson is on the board of Startup San Diego which is the official non-profit organization to support individuals building startups in San Diego, to represent the interests of entrepreneurs, celebrate successes and foster a cohesive and collaborative community.

Why is workforce development important to your organization’s mission?

1 Million Cups Alex2 Johannawithcohort1 EditedSmall businesses make up the following: 99.7% of U.S. employer firms, 64% of net new private-sector jobs and 49.2% of private-sector employment. When Kurling became chair of the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Regional Technology Council, the Fōkcus team began to deeply understand the important role that organizations like the San Diego Workforce Partnership play in the community. Our founders need a strong pipeline of engineers, designers, scientists and skilled laborers for their startups to thrive in the marketplace. Kurling has since become an executive board member of the San Diego Workforce Partnership and Workforce Ventures to support innovative programs like the Workforce’s Income Share Agreement (ISA) and TechHire, to bring more support to the communities where our founders work and live.

How can San Diegans get involved?

Our goal is to create a rich community of female, veteran and BIPOC founders and mentors. If you would like to join us in supporting that community, go to our website. If you would like to use our platform to help you run your innovation program, email Kurling. We have created a culture of learning at Fōkcus, so please subscribe to our Youtube channel and choose from our 100+ episodes on entrepreneurship from a variety of founders and mentors. Lastly, we are creating a fund called “Ten” to help past, present and future cohorts of diverse founders. Please email us for more information about how you can get involved in changing the way our community invests in innovation.

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity–not a threat.” – Steve Jobs.

[1] Mentors are the Secret Weapon of Successful Startups

[2] Mowgli Mentoring Impact Report 2015

[3] Mentors boost chances for business success

[4] Research: The Gender Gap in Startup Success Disappears When Women Fund Women

[5] 29 Interesting Entrepreneur Demographics

[6] The Kuffman Index 2016

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