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How coronavirus could lead to an unexpected kind of diversity

July 14, 2020, 10:35 PM UTC

Diversity is often spoken of in solely racial terms. But as more people are working from home, and some are rethinking living in high-priced cities, could investors benefit from an increased focus on geographical diversity?

Jewel Burks Solomon, head of Google for Startups U.S. and managing partner at Collab Capital, says it is prime time for investors to look outside beyond the typical confines of California and New York. Google for Startups provides tools to help new startups get off the ground, while Collab Capital is a fund aimed at Black founders.

“I feel like there is more opportunity now for people to get out of the bubble,” she told Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram in a Fortune Brainstorm Tech virtual conversation on Tuesday. A former founder herself (she founded a company called Partpic, per LinkedIn), Burks Solomon notes: “I’ve experienced what is was like to have investors say, ‘Oh, you’re in Atlanta, you’re not in Silicon Valley, so sorry, companies we invest are close to us.’ Now that is no longer valid.”

While dealmaking is very much a person-to-person process, the coronavirus has pushed everything into the digital sphere. “It’s a huge opportunity for founders to pitch to folks they maybe would not have had access to otherwise,” she says. “And an opportunity for investors to get outside of their typical location-based bubbles and network-based bubbles.”

The comments come amid a larger conversation around diversity as a whole in tech and the venture industry, sparked most recently by the death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in police custody.

Racial diversity is an issue often emphasized by the community, but the needle has barely moved. This time, says Solomon, feels different.

“There’s obviously a big need to focus in on leveling the playing field for underrepresented startups. There is a thread between George Floyd and the economic impact and the huge disparity across the nation,” she says. “I think people are really asking better questions about what is happening and what are the systems that are allowing this to happen year after year.”