In an interview with The Associated Press, Ross discussed the inspiration behind the Black Founders Development Program. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: You’ve said one of the reasons why Black-owned companies receive so little venture capital is that deals are often based on who you know. Can you elaborate?
A: I use an analogy that I got from one of my mentors, an ex alumni of Accenture. One of the things he told us is that corporate America runs by kindergarten rules. You’re out on the playground and you have two teams, and the teacher picks the leader. Who gets chosen first? The first person chosen is generally your friend … That’s the heart of networking. If you are a Black entrepreneur, and you are not in that ecosystem — whether it’s the companies you’ve worked in, the schools you went to — that level of connection and trust is not there. It’s not to say that their ideas are any better or worse than anyone else’s. They can have the best business case ever but if it’s a choice between someone I’ve known, versus someone who has a fantastic business case but I haven’t worked them, the choice goes to the person I know.
Q: What did the protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd mean to you?
A: I was floored. I was just in this very numb state. I’m a woman of color, and as soon as I step out my door the fact that I’m a managing partner with Accenture and I’ve had success and achievement, that I have two wonderful kids and a family, means nothing in the world. What they see is the color of my skin. I’m judged based on that. Because of that, the feeling of powerlessness is what galvanized me to say, ‘You know what? I have an opportunity and the power to start making a difference based on what I do to drive education and to drive income and opportunity to the Black community.’