10 Mar 2021

Get to Know The Equity Network, a Social Enterprise Track New Venture Competition Team


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) finale right around the corner (tune in March 30 at 6:00 pm), learn more about The Equity Network, a startup aiming to democratize network access for Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals. We asked co-founder Shelby Schrier (MBA 2022) about her entrepreneurial journey and NVC preparations.

Team members: Shelby Schrier (MBA 2022), Kristina Hu (MBA 2022), Isa Oliveres (MBA 2022), Jordyn Turner (MBA 2022), Olivia Melendez (MBA 2022)

What inspired you to start your company?

Shelby Schrier: This past June, inspired by Black Lives Matter, my co-founder Kristina Hu wrote a LinkedIn post setting out to devote 100 hours to mentoring Black college students and recent graduates interested in finance and tech. In talking with Kristina, I learned about the network gap: the reality that career progression is tied closely to who you know; yet networks are not created equally and oftentimes disadvantage communities of color. Reflecting on my own networking experience, I realized that I was unwittingly perpetuating the network gap by responding to LinkedIn messages from students and alumni from my alma mater but not making a concerted effort to extend support to disadvantaged communities outside of my networks. I was determined to make a mark in closing the network gap and to create a world where diverse talent is no longer underrepresented.

I reached out to Kristina to get involved in her mentorship initiative, and instead, we decided to launch an HBS Class Mentorship Directory through which we hoped to extend our collective networks to underrepresented groups. We recruited 70 HBS RC mentors, and after two weeks of publishing on LinkedIn (and only two LinkedIn posts), we drew 200+ advisee inbounds! We even had to halt distribution because we couldn’t keep up with demand.

And just like that, the Equity Network was born!

How has the Rock Center or Social Enterprise Initiative helped with your entrepreneurial journey? Are there any other HBS resources that you have been using?

SS: The most useful resource at HBS is other students! There are so many driven, passionate students here all looking to make an impact in different spaces—whether that’s creating the perfect mocktail or eliminating bias in AI—and many of our best ideas have come out of conversations with other fellow students. It is this collective entrepreneurial spirit at HBS, more than anything, that has truly pushed us forward.

In addition to students, the Rock Center’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence have been immensely helpful in giving concrete feedback to help us improve our product, business model, and growth strategy. Wherever we are in solution development, there is someone we can talk to at the Rocker Center who has been there before!

How have you been preparing for the competition?

SS: We are soliciting feedback from professors, peers, and diversity, equity, and inclusion domain experts. Our section mates have been immensely helpful in doing detailed read throughs of our executive summary (go section H!). In preparation for our beta launch this spring, we are looking for HBS students who are passionate about paying it forward to join us in our pilot cohort of advisors.

What part of the NVC journey has been the most helpful for your team?

SS: The NVC was the first time we needed to write an executive summary, and thus articulate our entire idea—problem, opportunity, solution, competitive edge, business model, growth strategy, leadership team, measurement and evaluation, financial plan—in just four pages! It forced us to distill our idea to only what’s critical, which has been immensely helpful in informal pitches.

How did you go about creating your competition pitch? Do you have any advice for someone looking to create a pitch?

SS: We modeled our pitch deck according to a framework presented in Startup Bootcamp, and have since had conversations with many classmates, professors, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and domain experts that have helped us refine the pitch. My advice for someone looking to create a pitch is to solicit feedback from as many people as possible! You’ll learn something different from every conversation.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

SS: Solicit feedback early and often, and be willing to adapt!

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