Black Venture Capitalists Are Transforming Tech


Would it surprise you to know that there are more than 100 black venture capitalists or that this nationwide ecosystem is growing?

Most of the VCs in this expanding ecosystem made pivots from highly successful careers in other fields. They have very impressive academic credentials, business backgrounds comparable to their Silicon Valley peers, and a will to win that belies their humble reserve. Many have also had successful exits and are making notable investments in disruptive tech startups.

For example, Troy Carter managed Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor (among others) before becoming the co-founder and managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures,  an early stage venture fund in Culver City, CA, that has backed Mayvenn, Gimlet Media, and Thrive Market. He was an early investor in Lyft, Warby Parker, and Spotify. He was also once on the brink of bankruptcy but found an Invictus-way out of that money pit. In line with the principles of Silicon Valley, Troy knew 20 years ago how to fail fast and pivot toward success.

Stephen DeBerry is the founder and chief investment officer of  The Bronze Venture Fund of East Palo Alto, CA. Previously, Stephen was a partner at Kapor Capital, the investment director at Omidyar Network (the investment firm started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam), and a senior business development manager at Interval Research (the lab established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen). Among Stephen’s credentials, he is a graduate of Oxford University’s M.B.A. program, a Marshall Scholar, an Aspen Institute Crown Fellow, and a trustee and member of the investment committee at The California Endowment.

Erik Moore, founder and managing director of Base Ventures in San Francisco, which backs tech firms, worked as investment banker at Merrill Lynch for 15 years before pivoting to venture capital. He made seed investments in Zappos, which Amazon purchased for $1.2 billion, and Agencourt Biosciences, which Beckman Coulter bought for $270 million. Erik earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.B.A. from the Wharton School, and an M.A. in International Studies-French at the University of Pennsylvania. His backers include Zappos founder Tony Hseih.

Aaron Holiday graduated from Morehouse and earned an MBA from Cornell University before joining Goldman Sachs, where he developed advanced equity trading software and derivative systems. Aaron is the co-founder and managing partner of 645 Ventures (New York, NY), which makes metrics-driven investments in companies demonstrating stellar early results in market validation, product differentiation, team strength, and brand narrative. Aaron’s firm invested in Fly Labs, which provides video creation and editing software for mobile devices. Google acquired Fly Labs in 2015. 645 also invested in IP firm Source3, which Facebook acquired this year.

There are also numerous, equally impressive, black women VCs enjoying success despite access and opportunity obstacles: They include:

·       Reach Capital general partner Shauntel Poulson (MIT B.S. in chemical engineering, Stanford MBA— and a former partner at NewSchools, an Oakland-based nonprofit VC for education startups).

·       Monique Woodward, a partner in 500 Startups in San Francisco who invests in black and Latino entrepreneurs—and co-founder and executive director of Black Founders, which is dedicated to increasing the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech.

·       Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne (Wharton MBA, University of Michigan undergrad) is a co-founder and general partner of The Harriet Fund, a New York-based early-stage venture fund that invests in technology startups led by black and Latina women.

Approximately 100 black men and women VCs can be found in my firm’s Culture Shift Labs Talent Database.

According to Harvard Business Review “evidence suggests that having no female partners makes VC firms less likely to invest in female-founded or female-led firms. But what much of the VC world might not realize, is that women-led firms may have a higher rate of return on average than male-led firms…A study conducted by the Small Business Association determined that venture firms that invested in women-led businesses had more positive performances than firms that did not.” According to Fortune magazine, the fastest growing segment of new business owners is black women.

Below is a list (in no particular order) of 28 other black VCs you should become familiar with:

1.   Kanyi Maqubela, Heartbeat Health, Inc.
2.   Issac Vaughn, formerly of Ooyala, Inc.
3.   Jillian Williams, Anthemis Group
4.   Kobie Fuller, Upfront Ventures
5.   Richard Kerby, formerly of Venrock
6.   Lindsay Lee, Authentic Ventures
7.   Walter Delph, BCG Digital Ventures
8.   William Crowder, 42 Ventures
9.   Kesha Cash, Impact America Fund
10.  Erica Minnihan, 1000 Angels
11.  Peter Boyce, General Catalyst and Rough Draft Ventures
12.  Lo Toney, GV (formerly Google Ventures)
13.  Tyson Clark, GV
14.  Courtney Hall, Hillcrest Venture Partners
15.  Brian Dixon, Kapor Capital
16.  Charles Hudson, Precursor Ventures
17.  Michael Seibel, Y Combinator
18.  Ryan Nece, Next Play Capital
19.  Charles King, Macro Ventures
20.  Nnamdi Okike, 645 Ventures
21.  Marlon Nichols, Cross Culture Ventures
22.  Brian Laung Aoaeh, KEC Ventures
23.  Eghosa Omoigui, Echo VC
24.  Lisa Lambert, Westly Group
25.  Karen Kerr, GE Ventures
26.  Lisa Coca, GE Ventures
27.  Arlan Hamilton, Backstage Capital
28.  Rashaun Williams, All-Star Fund
29.  Denmark West, Connectivity Ventures
30.  (see below)

Investors or change-agents in companies should become limited partners in black-managed VC funds (like Kapor Capital has for many years) or align with them as a part of a corporate diversity and inclusion strategy. This is a good way to map diversity and inclusion efforts to commercial priorities.

At my firm’s recent Culture Shifting Weekend in New York, more than 60 black VCs and VC firms gathered to meet with leading corporate executives and institutional and individual investors to help accomplish the twin goals of access and opportunity: Access to individual and institutional investors interested in becoming limited partners—and the opportunity to compete for capital and collaborations with established VC firms and corporate VC arms, without unconscious bias.

As black VC Richard Kerby pointed out in this TechCrunch article, “The common denominator among all VCs is that they were all given an opportunity to become investors and given access to capital to make investments. We should all care deeply about building a more diverse [VC] industry because it will lead to improved performance, accomplishments and financial rewards for everyone involved. Study after study has shown that teams that are more diverse lead to greater performance.”

Number 30 on my list recently formed his VC firm, Arrive. The firm is a collaboration with seed-stage firm Primary Venture Partners and GlassBridge Asset Management. In 2015, he launched a music streaming service called Tidal. Sprint purchased 33 percent of Tidal for $200 million this January. His name is Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z.

Andrea Hoffman is an advisor, dealmaker, strategist, speaker, author and the founder and CEO of the management consulting firm Culture Shift Labs (CSL). CSL advises companies, cities and philanthropists on growth and innovation through diversity and inclusion (D&I). Andrea consults with C-suite executives across a wide range of industries on finding new growth opportunities. Follow @andreadiversity

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