Innovation for All: Helping policymakers support underrepresented founders

3 min readDec 21, 2022

By Kate Tummarello, Executive Director, Engine Advocacy & Foundation

Entrepreneurship and innovation should be accessible to everyone. That’s why in September Engine, with the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, launched “Innovation for All” — a project to identify and propose policy solutions to correct barriers to entrepreneurship, especially those encountered by founders of color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those located in rural areas. Through surveys, roundtables, and facilitating direct engagement with policymakers, we’ll be elevating the perspectives of underrepresented founders — and we want your help.

The promise of the startup ecosystem is that founders from all communities across the country can have a chance to succeed, but systemic inequities keep many founders back. As the voice of startups in federal policy conversations, Engine has championed efforts to make the U.S. startup ecosystem more equitable and give a platform to underrepresented founders who can speak to their own experiences. Often in policymaking, a story is worth 10,000 data points (and we have plenty of data points demonstrating the inequities present in the startup ecosystem — from access to capital, mentorship, childcare, or other resources). With Innovation for All, we want those founders to set the agenda.

Innovation for All will center the voices and stories of the underrepresented founders in our network and beyond who tell us about the challenges they face in launching and growing their startups. That ranges from navigating a scarcity of capital, mentors, and network-building access, the disparate impact that child and family care can pose, insufficient Internet access, digital literacy resources, and STEM education opportunities, and much more. Over the next 18 months, we’ll be gathering feedback from underrepresented founders about the most significant and common barriers they face and connecting founders with policymakers directly to help advance policies that make the ecosystem more equitable.

We know startup founders are busy, so we’re gathering their perspectives through a survey about their experiences and the barriers they’ve encountered along the way that should take fewer than 10 minutes to complete. We’re also facilitating tailored roundtables for small groups of founders to discuss the issues and opportunities facing their communities. All along the way we’ll be highlighting, facilitating, and sharing the perspective of underrepresented founders — including in their own words — through statements for the record, regulatory comments, letters to policymakers, op-eds and more. And we’ll be collecting that work right here, so be sure to stay tuned as Engine, founders, investors, and startup supporters endeavor to ensure the availability of “Innovation for All.”

If you’re passionate about helping to create a more equitable environment, there are plenty more opportunities to get involved and make sure your voice is heard. Startups and entrepreneurship supporters inside and outside the Engine network are invited to participate — take the survey and be in touch if you’d like to join a roundtable to share your ideas for improving the startup ecosystem.

Engine is a non-profit technology policy, research, and advocacy organization that bridges the gap between policymakers and startups. Engine works with government and a community of thousands of high-technology, growth-oriented startups across the nation to support the development of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues.




Engine is the voice of startups in government. We are a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy.