In past Mindset Matters columns, there has been discussion about the need for venture capital, private equity, and incubators within the disability space. This is not a column specifically about that, but rather the influence that these institutions have in shaping the growing Disability Economy while offering a bridge to the larger economic ecosystem so that disability not only becomes a key vertical, but a valued asset of growth. To truly appreciate the prominence that these institutions will have in helping to shape the Disability Economy for the future, it is critical to investigate the past to have a level of context. We don’t have to look much further than that of the Medici family, who became known as a major influence on the growth of the Italian Renaissance through their patronage of the arts and humanism. It was this support that helped some of the great artists of the time such as Botticelli and Michelangelo produce some of their finest works. Giovanni di Averardo de Medici, the first member of the family to surround himself with art and provided backing was attributed to saying that “a foolish man lives for himself. A wise man lives with a purpose.” It is this type of purpose that is an essential ingredient for today’s organizations that want to gain a foothold in designing the future of the Disability Economy. The responsibility of leadership within the current incarnation of incubators and venture capital who are engaging in this burgeoning ecosystem is in many ways to see themselves like the Medici family, one who will play many roles in helping to articulate the growth of the burgeoning Disability Economy. From benefactor, to sponsor, to teacher, and ultimately guide, there must be a framework that leaders in this space can follow to live with purpose and create a future where the landscape offers both social and financial impact.
We are seeing examples of this type of leadership demonstrated across this budding ecosystem where the responsibility of purpose becomes the key driver towards innovation. It is here where we can imagine not only an end to the exclusion of those with disabilities, but rather see a humanistic endeavor where we can engage in deeper cooperation between users, innovators, entrepreneurs, and capital. +N inclusive innovation network is one such example of this type of leadership being put into practice. +N is a global community of accelerators, innovators, and investors who are dedicated to seeing technology as a vehicle for entrepreneurship and bridging the disability divide. Much like the Medici family, this is a family of allies that includes an ever-increasing group of partners from around the globe consisting of Remarkable Tech in Australia, AssitTech in India, and The Global Centre of Possibilities in New Zealand among others who are redefining how we think about the value of the Disability Economy while imagining its influence across the larger society.
One of the maxims of Silicon Valley has always been about changing the world, yet now we are at a moment where that motto must be united with the Disability Rights assertion “Nothing about us, without us” to create a new behavioral philosophy within the world of private equity to help drive inclusive change, while recognizing that this is not mutually exclusive from economic gains. In fact, with the rise of ESG and impact investing we are seeing that sea change happening, yet it is time for more firms to recognize the potential opportunity that lies ahead.
In recent days one of the prime examples of this is the emergence of Enable Ventures which is part of the newly formed Sorenson Impact Asset Management. Enable Ventures, co-founded by Regina “Gina” Kline a former Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice has seen first-hand the need to solve problems and recognized the power of the disability community as a key for the future of economic growth. Seeing Enable Ventures at the intersection of innovation and disability investing in key areas from upskilling, reskilling, and the future of work to the next-gen assistive technologies and founders with disabilities this organization provides another example of the proof of concept that the Disability Economy is evolving and can be recognized as an essential component to the larger business ecosystem.
As the Disability Economy continues to evolve, financial professionals across the realm of private equity and venture capital must recognize that embracing a new way of thinking is a pathway toward greater economic opportunities and a bridge toward making the Disability Economy a genuine value for business development.