10 Black Investors Making a Big Impact in VC

According to Venture Forward’s latest VC Human Capital Survey, Black employees account for 5% of all investment professionals, 7% of junior investment professionals, and 4% of investment partners at VC firms. In contrast, the U.S. Census Department reports that 13% of the civilian labor force is Black. This stark disparity highlights a significant opportunity for greater innovation, impact, and returns by cultivating a more inclusive and racially diverse VC ecosystem that mirrors the diversity of our country.   

Venture Forward (alongside other organizations) is witnessing a positive trend with Black investors breaking into the industry, building impressive track records, managing funds, and leaving an indelible mark. For Black History Month, we’re highlighting and celebrating the accomplishments of 10 Black VC investors who have made a profound impact on the ecosystem, ranging from seasoned trailblazers with a wealth of experience to newer investors making waves. 

While we spotlight 10 exceptional Black VCs in this post, there are many more whose accomplishments deserve to be recognized and celebrated – please help amplify their incredible work by tagging them on social. Let’s foster a community that recognizes and appreciates the positive impact diverse talent can bring to VC. 

Note: List is alphabetical by last name.  

Brentt Baltimore

Principal, Greycroft 

Brentt serves as a Principal at Greycroft, where he focuses on investment opportunities in software, data, and machine learning. Before joining Greycroft, Brentt was on the founding team at TernPro (acquired by Smartsheet), led business development at Operator, an early player in the conversational commerce space, and worked on technology commercialization at Numenta, a machine intelligence research company. Prior to this, he was an Associate at Detroit Venture Partners, and he began his career in investment banking at Credit Suisse. 

He is a Kauffman Fellow, and has led Greycroft’s investments in NextData, Bobsled, Merly, Groundlight, Storyteller, Trullion, Mapped, 1build, Craft, and Sailplan. Brentt received the Venture Capital Journal rising star award, serves on the advisory committee of PledgeLA, and co-leads the LA chapter of BLCK VC. 

Venture Forward fun fact: Brentt was a NVCA rising star award recipient and has participated as a VC University mentor. 

Brian Brackeen

General Partner, Lightship 

Brian is the General Partner of Lightship, a Cincinnati-based venture capital fund that backs businesses led by FOC (Founders of Color), women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, innovators with disabilities, and all others who have been overlooked and underfunded by the traditional VC community. Lightship focuses on consumer-packaged goods, e-Commerce, sustainability, artificial intelligence, and health-tech. Brian is responsible for fund operations, entrepreneurial training, and leadership of the AI team. 

Brian is also the General Partner of Lightship Anchor Fund, a fund of funds leveraging diversity to produce exceptional outcomes for underrepresented fund managers.  

Before his work in venture capital, he founded Kairos, an AI company specializing in face recognition. 

Lisa Coca

Partner, Toyota Ventures 

Lisa is a Partner at Toyota Ventures, leading the Climate Fund, which invests in innovative solutions for carbon neutrality. Prior, she was a managing director at Intel’s growth division, driving disruptive businesses, and a founding member of GE Ventures. She led sustainability efforts at GE real estate, enhancing asset impact and financial performance. With roles in strategy, innovation, and finance, Lisa began as a Wall Street financial analyst. She serves on the board of trustees for the Girls Middle School and as independent board director for Apollo Realty Income Solutions. Lisa holds honors from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

Erica Duignan Minnihan

Founder & General Partner, Reign Ventures 

Erica is the Founder and General Partner at Reign Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund that invests in consumer tech and enterprise software startups led by women and minority-led founders.  

Erica has been an active investor in and advisor to early-stage companies for over 15 years. Before launching Reign Ventures, she was Founding Partner of 1000 Angels, Managing Director at DreamIt Ventures, and Executive Director at both STAR Angel Network and Golden Seeds. Prior to beginning a career in VC, she practiced investment banking at Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Cantor Fitzgerald.  

Erica is very active in VC education. She co-founded and co-taught the “Venture Investing for Professional Athletes” program for Columbia Business School and teaches a course for the Angel Capital Association of America. She also currently serves as Chairwoman of the SEC Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee. 

Venture Forward fun fact: Erica is a past participant in our LP Office Hours program. 

 

Tessa Flippin

Founder & Managing Partner, Capitalize VC 

Tessa is the Founder and Managing Partner of Capitalize VC, a Chicago-based VC fund investing in pre-seed stage, diverse founders in the multi-trillion dollar, rapidly growing commerce industry at the intersection of commerce enablement, commerce infrastructure, fintech and consumer brands.

Tessa began her career in VC as a venture investor at TechNexus, a Chicago-based fund, where she invested in enterprise SaaS technologies at the seed stage. She went on to join Genius Guild Greenhouse Fund as a Venture Capitalist in Residence, investing in diverse founders in fintech, health tech and connectivity.

Prior to venture capital, Tessa founded La Plataforma, a fintech payments platform, sending international money transfers throughout Latin America. Tessa actively serves on the boards of BLCK VC Midwest and Chicago:Blend, working to bring diversity to the Midwest tech ecosystem.

Venture Forward fun fact: Tessa participated in our LP Office Hours program.   

Dan Gebremedhin

Dan is a Partner at Flare Capital Partners, one of the largest investors dedicated to healthcare technology, partnering with entrepreneurs to improve outcomes and 
reduce costs.  

He was a practicing Internal Medicine Physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital and appointed Faculty Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2010-2019. 

Previously, Dan served as a Medical Director at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan, leading Population Health Analytics, Value-Based Purchasing, and General Strategy. Dan also spent time as an entrepreneur and operator, co-founding and managing two separate businesses in the Electronic Health Records and Online Medical Education industries. 

Venture Forward fun fact: Dan is a past NVCA rising star award recipient and serves as a VC University mentor.   

Frederik Groce

Deal Lead, Wellington Management 

Frederik is the Deal Lead at Wellington Management, where he helps manage the firm’s private company investment activity in diverse early-stage companies and venture capital funds. Prior to joining Wellington Management, Frederik was a partner at early-stage VC firm Storm Ventures. Prior to Storm, he was the CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises, an organization which manages businesses enterprises created for and by students. 

Frederik is the co-founder of BLCK VC, a non-profit organization focused on connecting, engaging, empowering, and advancing Black venture investors. BLCK VC is the largest Black venture community in the United States. 

Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” Onovakpuri

Managing Partner, Kapor Capital 

Ulili is a Managing Partner of Kapor Capital, a VC firm that invests in industry-transforming startups, with an eye towards creating a more fair, just, and equitable society for low-income communities and underrepresented communities of color. In 2022, Kapor raised a $126 million Fund III, which is co-led by Ulili, and is one of the few Black-led, nine-figure funds in the venture world. She is focused on sourcing investment opportunities, conducting diligence and supporting Kapor Capital’s portfolio companies, particularly those in the digital health and medical technology industries. 

Previously, Ulili served as Director of Global Programs at Village Capital, a global accelerator program and venture capital firm which supports healthcare, education, agriculture, energy and FinTech businesses. At Village Capital, she worked side by side with entrepreneurs from around the world helping them grow their ideas into marketable businesses. 

Sydney Sykes

Partner, Lightspeed 

Sydney is a Partner at Lightspeed, focusing on the consumer practice. Joining the firm in 2022 after serving as a Scout, Sydney is passionate about the transformative impact of emerging technologies on commerce, SMB enablement, and digital health sectors. Her early-stage investment experience at NEA fueled her enthusiasm for consumer startups and angel investing. Sydney co-founded BLCK VC, a leading network fostering Black representation in venture capital. As co-CEO, she propelled the non-profit to a multi-million dollar budget and 20,000+ person reach.   

Samer Yousif

Senior Associate, Insight Partners 

Samer is a Senior Associate at Insight Partners, where he co-leads the 20/20 Vision Capital Fund, a fund of funds vehicle which invests in emerging, early-stage venture funds led by diverse general partners.  

Prior to Insight, Samer was CEO at BLCK VC, the professional organization for Black venture investors. Samer was the first hire at BLCK VC, building the organization’s strategy, programs, internal operations, and the State of Black Venture Report to increase diversity and inclusion in the venture ecosystem. Prior to BLCK VC, Samer was a Program Officer at VentureWell, where he led U.S. Department of State programs to build startup ecosystems in emerging markets. Samer led initiatives to train and mobilize angel investors, support early-stage STEM innovators, and build partnerships with local entrepreneur support organizations.  

Venture Forward fun fact: Samer is a VC University alum and participated as an LP host in our LP Office Hour program.  

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