Tag: black lives matter

Jun 16 2020

Supporting Arlan Hamilton’s Project Cover

Shortly after George Floyd was murdered, I started calling Black VC and entrepreneur friends asking them “what are two things you are involved in that I can immediately support with time and money.” 

Arlan Hamilton was my first call. In addition to asking me to spend more time with Backstage Capital portfolio companies and founders, she told me about a non-profit called Cover that she created in 2016 with Bryan Landers and Dianne Cherrez.

https://twitter.com/ArlanWasHere/status/769619516724613120

Arlan decided to give away copies of startup and investing books to help more people gain access to content that could change their career path.

Venture Deals was one of the books that Arlan gave away and she has occasionally talked about how impactful the book was to her own journey to learn about and become a VC.

https://twitter.com/bryanlanders/status/864158370730659840

I love to read. Arlan loves to read. And Arlan appreciates the power of books to help people learn. And, it’s even fun to see how people get Arlan’s attention using Backstage Capital and Venture Deals together.

https://twitter.com/ArlanWasHere/status/854479111544160256

Cover 1.0 was giving away books. Cover 2.0 started with the following tweet and shifted to gifting $500 to recipients to help them reach their goals. 

https://twitter.com/ArlanWasHere/status/957291083804786688

With this new approach, Cover allowed access to knowledge (books, courses…), networks (introductions, memberships…), and opportunities (events, job applications…) to those who are working hard to achieve great things.

For Cover 3.0, Arlan is including the Covid crisis in the mix to include Covid-related help. For example, PPE–especially for high-risk, low-resourced places like prisons and other non-profits, higher education and experiences for Black women, and resources for displaced Black students.

In addition to financially supporting Cover 3.0 at a level to support 100 gifts, I’m going to donate 100 copies of Venture Deals to Cover 3.0 to give away to each recipient.

If you want to support Cover 3.0, please Donate any amount. I’m confident that Arlan and team will put it to good use. 

Arlan – you inspire me and so many others. Thank you.

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Jun 11 2020

Supporting the Zane Access Inaugural Pre-Capital Program Cohort

On Monday, June 1st, I told Amy that I wanted to engage deeply in helping eliminate racism in the United States.

I’ve been involved in gender inequity issues since I joined the National Center for Women & Information Technology board in 2005 shortly after it was formed. 15 years later, I’ve learned an enormous amount about gender, especially in tech, and while I am nowhere near finished on that particular journey, I feel that I understand and can be helpful in my role as a male advocate (or “male ally”) in eliminating gender inequity in tech and entrepreneurship.

While Amy and I have been philanthropically supporting social justice issues for over 20 years through our foundation, I don’t feel like I’ve engaged in a meaningful way. I have an enormous amount to learn about racial inequality in our country and my network for and advocacy of Black entrepreneurs and investors is woefully inadequate.

In my discussion with Amy, we decided to personally fund and get involved in at least 10 initiatives right away, which I defined as “by the end of June.” I’ve spent several hours a day each day since last Monday reaching out to Black friends I know with one question.

“What are two initiatives you are involved in right now that I could put time and/or money into in support of you and your activities?”

In each case, I offered money along with a desire to actively engage in support of them and their activities. This is not “I’ll do a mentor call with you” or “Email me anytime you have a question” but an open-ended “tell me what I can do to help you execute a particular initiative.”

The conversations have been excellent and extremely enlightening. Given that almost all of them were with people I already knew, I don’t need to do any diligence on the organizations they are asking me to get involved in as their reference credibility is enough for me. In a few cases, I had inbound from people I didn’t know and I also chose several of them to engage with.

Right now, these are philanthropic contributions to non-profit organizations or sponsorships for people going through some kind of program (non-profit and for-profit). This is a completely separate initiative from investment activity with my partners at Foundry Group, which we’ll be talking about more soon once we’ve made clear decisions about what we are going to do over the next few years.

My first of these commitments is to the Zane Access Inaugural Pre-Capital Program Cohort. I got an email from Shila Nieves Burney asking if I would donate 20 copies of Venture Deals. I responded yes and asked if there was anything else I could do to help their first cohort. Shila responded that they’d love to do an AMA and asked if I would be willing to underwrite the tuition for one of the founders, as there were eight in the program who were accepted but would have to forgo the opportunity to join the program due to the financial investment obligation.

I told Shila that I’d do the AMA and underwrite all eight founders who were not in a position to make the investment. I wanted to ensure that no founder who reached the high barrier to be accepted into the program would have to turn it down due to financial concerns.

I’ll be doing the AMA early in the program, so my hope is that I’ll get to know some of the founders, can help them throughout the program, and then connect them into some of my networks proactively where appropriate.


In my previous post, I said that for a while I’ll include one powerful thing each day that I read about racial injustice and Black Lives Matter. Today’s is from Donna Harris, a long time friend who I met through our work on the Startup America Partnership. She’s the co-founder of 1776 and now runs Builders and Backers. When I read her post The Hurt is Everywhere I cried (a “Jerry Colonna induced type of cry.”)

The hurt is everywhere. In every community. If you don’t see it, it just means you’re not talking to the people who are experiencing it.

That’s where we must start. We cannot create a society where all men are truly equal and every community flourishes if we don’t understand how badly the deck is stacked against so many of us and listen to and acknowledge the deep anguish that causes. Then, all of us must commit to repairing the broken places. In our nation. But also in our families, in our schools, and on the streets of our own neighborhoods. To that end, the next time you see a black man walking down your street, stay on the same side of the road and say hello.

Please go read The Hurt is Everywhere.

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Jun 8 2020

Black Lives Matter and My Fear About Short Attention Spans

While I was trying to get my soul to reset a little yesterday, I worried about short attention spans. As humans, we naturally have short attention spans that are amplified by the extremely short attention span of the media.

We are at the beginning of two new crises intermingled with multiple other crises we are dealing with as a result of Covid. The four crises that Covid has amplified (so far) are health, economic, mental health, and racial inequality. But they are not the only crises we are dealing with (anyone remember gender inequity, especially in tech, or #MeToo?)

Sustained leadership to address each crisis – over the long term – is required. I’m committed to that and I encourage everyone else who is writing, listening, talking, and trying to affect positive change to make a long term committment.

I’ve seen many posts and a few videos from white male CEOs talking to their companies about Black Lives Matter. I thought this one, from Bryan Leach, CEO of iBotta, was spectacular.

Emmanuel Acho was even better.

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