Kathryn Finney

Photo: Joshua Franzos

Kathryn Finney

28th Heinz Awards - 2023

Kathryn Finney receives the Heinz Award for the Economy for disrupting the status quo in the tech field and boldly breaking down barriers that have long hindered Black and Brown women from entering the startup ecosystem. Named one of the most influential women in tech, Ms. Finney has innovated, led, advocated for and started programs that foster economic, financial and social opportunities for BIPOC-owned businesses across the U.S.   

A Yale University-trained epidemiologist, Ms. Finney is dedicated to building a new pipeline of talent and economic growth on the core premise that true innovation cannot be achieved without diversity. She is the founding managing partner of Genius Guild, a Chicago-based venture firm that invests in high-growth startups that are led by diverse founders using the social determinants of health framework to build market-driven solutions.  

Prior to launching the Genius Guild, she repeatedly experienced being the only Black person in the room at tech events and being rejected by investors not interested in funding Black women. In response, Ms. Finney founded the social enterprise digitalundivided (DID) to foster economic development by, as she describes, “investing where others won’t, championing what others don’t and doubling down on opportunities that others consider small bets to bridge the digital divide.”  

Ms. Finney grew DID into an organization that excels at finding, developing and supporting Black and Latinx women-led startups that have the potential to create community-level economic impact, with partnerships with institutions such as Pivotal Ventures and Microsoft for Startups.  

Ms. Finney is the author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller, “Build the Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business if You’re Not a Rich White Guy,” which offers a battle-tested guide to help every entrepreneur succeed. She shares her journey on her podcast, “Build the Damn Thing,” to further equip and encourage Black founders and women entrepreneurs

Photo: Joshua Franzos

Photo: Joshua Franzos

“My life’s work has focused on creating a world where we all win – investors, founders of startups, and the communities they serve. The world has bought into this notion that for a person to win, someone has to lose, which is simply not true. Investing in innovation that builds a better, more positive world – no matter where it comes from – is a win for us all.”

— Kathryn Finney


Kathryn Finney, boldly breaking down barriers in the tech startup ecosystem – Heinz Awardee

How to Build the Damn Thing with Kathryn Finney | SXSW 2023

Author in Residence Series: Build the Damn Thing with Kathryn Finney