If you haven’t been the victim of racism, imagine stepping into someone else’s shoes and experiencing it first hand. Imagine being transported into the realities of harassment.
Morgan Mercer combined insights from these immersive experiences into a venture-backed startup, Vantage Point. As a female founder, fundraising was a challenge but the Los Angeles venture launched in 2017 with a few clients and a beta product.
By the Spring of 2020, Vantage Point was taking on systemic racism in Fortune 500 companies through immersive virtual reality learning experiences on topics such as racial discrimination and gender inequality. Mercer closed a second seed round of funding as the pandemic struck. The company shifted to a distributed VR model. Headsets are mailed to clients with a prepaid return postage label.
Participants have independent and collective experiences with facilitation to move conversations forward. After an immersion, participants respond to tough questions like, “Do you have privilege in that situation that a person of color might not?”
Mercer grew up bi-racial in North Carolina and remembers examples of blatant racism and microaggressions with undertones of racism in everyday life. Important lessons from her upbringing were how to have hard conversations with the people that you care about and how to determine your own values and beliefs. She explains the difference between existing within a belief system that you are born into and creating your own belief system based on your own values and lessons learned.
Today, Mercer sees many of the same societal issues from her childhood and how ingrained in the deepest part of our society they are. Mercer sees one of the most important collective things we can do is building shared experiences and a better understanding of those with different perspectives. Shared perspectives help teach people how to show up as an ally in a more empathetic way.
With the recent national attention to issues of race and equity, Mercer has seen a spike in interest in this type of training. Vantage Point is bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion training programs to corporations as well as schools. Programs include topics such as harassment, racial discrimination, and gender inequality. The experience roadmap includes leadership, negotiation, hiring, and training for remote work.
The company has raised $3.7 million in seed funding from 22 investors including Samara Hernandez, Dana Wright and Adrian Fenty. Mercer represents 0.06% Black Women to have raised over $1M in funding from VCs.
Mercer credits her initial success to an impressive team of stakeholders, advisors, and investors. “We hire for values–everybody is authentically passionate about what we’re creating,” added Mercer.
Vantage Point and their innovative VR training may be the right solution to begin tackling systemic racism from within your organization and school.
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