Several people pointed me at Hadiyah Mujhid, the Founder and CEO of HBCUvc. We talked a few times and I offered to support HBCUvc in any way that she wanted. She asked me to support the expansion of HBCUvc’s VC Lab and Fund.
HBCUvc is seeking to expand its VC Lab and Fund program that invests in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx entrepreneurs building technology companies. The fund is managed by university students participating in HBCUvc’s Fellowship programs. Fellows originate and execute startup investments under the supervision of HBCUvc’s investment committee, a team of experienced venture capital investors.
Currently, while there are similar funding organizations for other universities, there are no funding groups affiliated with investing or supporting entrepreneurs from the HBCU ecosystem. For perspective:
The lab and fund builds on the foundation laid in HBCUvc’s fellowship programs and provides direct investing experience for the fellows with the following goals:
Primary learnings for the fellows include:
Expansion of the VC Lab and Fund will help bridge this funding gap, support more entrepreneurs, and provide venture experience to create a pipeline of Black and Brown VCs.
Austin Clements was one of the Black VCs I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered with the question, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?” I knew Austin from his time at TenOneTen Ventures (we are an LP) and I reconnected with him when he joined the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 25).
Among other things, he told me about Grid110 and why he was helping create and lead Grid110’s new program in South LA.
Grid110 is a non-profit with a mission is to foster the most thriving, inviting and inclusive community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. They believe that anyone with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur should have the chance to pursue it and receive support along the way. Their work impacts individuals who are often overlooked by traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems, making the the entrepreneurial path more equitable, inclusive and accessible.
I committed to providing funding for the program at the end of the call. Since then, the program has launched with its inaugural class and has been up and running since July.
Over 90% of the selected companies are led by Black and Latinx founders, and the majority of founders are women. The companies are wide ranging — from CPG products to B2B SaaS, from early childhood support all the way to death care services, from for-profit Co-Ops to non-profit boutiques. Some are first time entrepreneurs right out of college, others have long track records of shaping business and culture.
Tonight, I’m doing a virtual AMA with the program. I’m very looking forward to it.
Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, underwrote a new video series on PBS 12 called From Moment to Movement.
From the trailer:
Tensions around race relations have been simmering for centuries in the U.S. Now they’re now at a boiling point. Meanwhile, President Trump’s administration is treating Black Lives Matters protestors like domestic terrorists. Millions of Americans, especially Black Americans, continue to rally to make their voices heard. From Moment to Movement” aims to give a platform to African American voices and dismantle systemic racism.
The host, Tamara Banks, reached out to me shortly after George Floyd was murdered. She showed me a few of the pilot episodes, including an interview with Brandon Carter and an interview with Amy E. Brown. After watching them, I thought they were great and important and agreed to underwrite the whole series.
Two a week will be dropping on the PBS 12 website for the next few weeks. They are currently in production to be broadcast on TV as well.
Tamara – thank you for doing this and putting it out there.
Founded by James Oliver, the ParentPreneur Foundation empowers Black people to be the best parents and entrepreneurs possible providing them money, tools, resources, and social capital.
I’ve known James for several years. After George Floyd was murdered, James was one of my Black friends who I called up and asked, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?”
We talked about a couple of things, but when he started speaking about his dream to start a non-profit to help Black entrepreneurs who were also parents, I knew what I’d be supporting.
James is the perfect person to undertake this endeavor because he is acutely aware of the pain of parents who are entrepreneurs. James participated in the gener8tor accelerator and founded his startup, WeMontage.com when his now seven-year-old twins were born prematurely and weighed only two pounds each. During that difficult time, he was living 1,000 miles from family and friends, so he didn’t have much support.
Amy and I don’t have kids, so I listen to my friends who are entrepreneurs with kids about their experiences. Rather than assume their challenges are the same as mine, I recognize I have it easier in many ways, and enjoyed and learned from James’ book The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get.
In our conversation about this new foundation, James told me that being a parent and an entrepreneur is hard, but being a Black ParentPreneur is even harder.
“Black people don’t have the same resources as many of our White ParentPreneur counterparts. Many of us are first-generation college graduates, and we don’t have a relative we can call to give us money to hold us over until we can get enough traction with our business. Further, we generally don’t have the social capital to execute our good ideas or even imagine what is possible.”
Hence, the ParentPreneur Foundation, which James started a month ago. The inaugural cohort was recently announced and had ten Black ParentPreneurs who each received $1,000. The foundation also provides access to resources to improve beneficiary businesses and parenting lifestyles.
I’m excited about supporting James in the work he’s doing to help address issues of economic inequality in the Black entrepreneur community while helping strengthen families.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or connect with James to offer resources for the foundation’s beneficiaries.
And if you’re a Black ParentPreneur, join the foundation’s online private community.
I recently was in an email thread where a Black founder had a powerful and clear response to the question from one of her corporate partners. The question was:
How can our (the corporate partner’s) team better support diversity in our work, particularly in our sourcing, diligence, and onboarding efforts?
The entrepreneur responded with a long explanation that was a brilliant and extremely helpful perspective for me. It follows.
I think one of my core experiences, and a truth that we all have to grapple with, is that programs like yours should be thought of like higher education in 1960, or getting into a NYC Specialized High School today.
Were there no Black students at Harvard because Black people aren’t brilliant? No.
There were no Black students at Harvard because you have to get a certain score on the SAT to get in.
People who score well on the SAT either:
Because of institutional racism in our society, Black people:
If we juxtapose that analogy with startups, your team will need to ask itself what criteria you’re using for startups.
Black entrepreneurs have to find a way/make a way/invent a way to launch businesses with two arms tied behind our backs because we don’t get the same funding as our white counterparts.
So I have raised $2.5MM and have to compete with companies who have raised $25m and $70m respectively.
And yet, I’m constantly asked, “What’s your traction?” which is similar to “What’s your SAT score?”
We know that as a society, we are starving Black businesses for capital, and yet we expect them to hit the same milestone markers as businesses that have a plethora of capital. It’s like not feeding a cow yet expecting them to produce milk. It’s literally madness and maddening.
Thinking about your sourcing of Black companies is going to be a far more complex question than “Who do we call to find the amazing Black companies?” It’s going to be “How do we change our lens so we can see the amazing Black companies?” followed by “Once we bring them into our ecosystem, how do we support their journey in meaningful ways that can help to level the playing field = e.g. get them capital or get them revenue?”
Maybe we should stop asking “What’s your SAT score?” and instead ask, “Wow. How on earth did you maintain a 3.7 GPA, and cook for your little brother and sister every night because your mom had 2 jobs, and get an A in calculus without a high-paid tutor, and work a full-time summer job at Key Food while taking a class to teach you how to code at night? That’s a lot of grit!”
Maybe we’re measuring the wrong things in our entrepreneurial society, just as we’ve measured the wrong things in our larger society. Maybe we all need to start talking about grit instead of metrics that can only be achieved with money, and then make sure all entrepreneurs get the funding required to achieve equivalent metrics.
In response to my post, Contemporary Mentors, a female reader of this blog who often sends me notes when I fall into a pattern of highlighting cis-het-white men, responded directly to the post with:
I hope that you add more women and more diversity to your contemporary mentors. Otherwise you are in the same fucking echo chamber.
I responded with:
I have many women mentors. Here’s some: Lucy Sanders, Heidi Roizen, Madeleine Albright, Amy Batchelor, Wendy Lea, Nicole Glaros, Arlan Hamilton, Freada Kapor Klein, Lesa Mitchell, Jean Case … And many women who I learn a ton from that I wish I had a mentee relationship (or contemporary mentor relationship with) – (e.g. Melinda Gates, Susan Cain, Brené Brown).
I forgot a few in my quick response, including Joanne Wilson, Robin Hauser, and my mom (Cecelia Feld.) And even as I write this, the list continues to unfold in my brain, which makes me smile. But I also realize that most of these women are white, so I have work to do to find some non-white female mentors.
The reader is not a fan of Tim’s and went after my affection for him with the following:
I can’t listen to Tim’s podcasts because it’s the white bro-show…the very thing that led me to start my podcast in 2017. After he released the episode a few years ago on bitcoin and blockchain (which was brilliant) I tried to listen to him but his world is truly a distorted echo chamber. I don’t understand people’s fascination with him. Then again I don’t understand folks’ fascination with Gary V or Jack Dorsey…the list goes on and on.
I struggled with her view on Tim, but I don’t want to try to convince her otherwise. Instead, I’m more interested in listening and learning, which led to this comment of her’s.
True allies / accomplices see these things and call them out. It’s exhausting when we have to call it out for you cis-het-white bros. And yes, I have this convo with my husband on a regular basis.
Embedded earlier was the comment:
If you really are into helping out with diversity, calling this stuff out would be really helpful. Otherwise you perpetuate it.
I’ve been learning about how to be an ally / accomplish since 2005 when I was first introduced to the concept by Lucy Sanders at NCWIT. I’ve learned a lot about this from Robin Hauser through her film Bias (Amy and I are executive directors of Bias, Code, and Robin’s upcoming film $avvy) and have been going even deeper with some of my work recently around racial inequity.
But there’s almost more to learn.
If you are a venture capitalist, I strongly encourage you to join the Valence Funding Network to provide Black founders with direct access to VCs. I’ve joined along with a number of my peers.
Kobie Fuller at Upfront Ventures started Valence in the fall of 2019. Valence launched our beta platform to provide a digital home for Black talent to connect, access opportunities, and aggregate their power. Valence exists to change the dynamic where Black founders receive a disproportionately low amount of venture funding (today – just 1 percent).
Kobe’s quote in the press release kind of says it all:
“For years, Black entrepreneurs have been told that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy, but at the same time most haven’t had access to the top networks, the warm introductions, and the mentorship that underpin lasting success in tech. Valence is upending this completely by bringing the top VCs to Valence to compete for the best Black founders.” said Valence CoFounder and General Partner at Upfront Ventures, Kobie Fuller. “We want to even the playing field with the goal of exponentially growing the number of Black-owned startups that get funded.”
The 27 VC firms who are inaugural members of the Funding Network have a cumulative $60 Billion+ under management and now have direct access to Valence’s membership base of ~8,000 and growing Black professionals.
One of thing I’ve committed to is the “Boost feature” which allows any member on the network to request a 30 minute meeting with me to pitch what they are doing. I’ll honor all the Boost requests and, at the minimum, provide constructive feedback and any introductions to my network that I think would be helpful.
Today, I participated in the Juneteeneth 4.0 Celebration that was hosted by OHUB, ThePlug, and Living Cities and led by Rodney Sampson. In addition to being part of a panel, I made several commitments as part of the #RacialEquityEcosystemPledge. Here’s the fact sheet released by OHUB today.
I’ve agreed to:
The entire event is below. There’s a lot of awesome stuff in it.
In addition to the awesomeness, I made a mistake. Right after I spoke, I got a text from a White friend who is an entrepreneur I’ve invested in who watched the event live.
I immediately sent Rodney an email under the heading “I apologize for the microaggression.”
Apparently in my closing comments I said that you were “articulate” (I wasn’t aware that I used the word.) While I hadn’t seen this NY Times article I know that “articulate” is viewed as a microaggression.
So, regardless of whether it was intended, or you heard it, or anything else, I want to simply apologize.
You are incredible. You inspire me.
Rodney quickly responded:
Thanks for this. Tell your friend they are right. Apology accepted. However, in this case, I know that you meant “vocal in my leadership”. 🙂
We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m up for it.
When I make a mistake, I try to own it, apologize, and learn from it. I’m far from perfect here, but Rodney’s response, by acknowledging my mistaking, quickly accepting my apology, and getting back to work with me motivates me even more to work with him!
I’ll be part of a fireside chat with Rodney Sampson (CEO, OHUB) and Ben Hecht (CEO, Living Cities) where, among other things, we’ll discuss the introduction of Racial Equity Pledge.
Rodney is one of the dozen or so Black colleagues that I reached out to and talked to over the last two weeks to learn more about what I could get involved in and immediately support with time and money. Ohub is one of those organizations and I’ve already learned a lot from Rodney, such as several different ways to think about changing the equation around racial inequity in tech. A framework I got from him that I immediately related to is his Economic Development Pyramid.
Rodney did an interview with CNBC several weeks ago that lit me up with enthusiasm for working with him.
Foundry Group is closed on Friday in celebration of Juneteenth. We had an email thread go around yesterday among the entire team discussing what we are doing tomorrow, which includes attending a number of Juneteenth events, along with reading and reflecting on racial injustice.
If you are available and interested, please join us for the Juneteeneth 4.0 Celebration.