This is the second installment in a four-part series. Read part one.
According to Venture Forward’s latest VC Human Capital Survey, Black investors represented just 3% of VC partners in 2020. The survey found that newer firms (i.e., those founded within the past ten years) had a higher representation of Black partners. In recent years, we’ve seen several, talented Black investors launching their own funds and making a big impact.
This month, we’re showcasing five up-and-coming Black emerging managers to amplify their incredible work. Combined, they manage $120M+ in VC assets.
Austin Clements is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Slauson & Co., a Los Angeles-based early-stage venture capital firm. He shared with me his passion for small business development and investing in the below interview. Fun fact, Austin is a past participant in our LP Office Hours program!
Sarah: Why did you want to become a VC? Walk us through your career journey.
Austin: After college, I worked in private wealth management and fell in love with the idea of investing, but in 2009 when the iPhone app store took off, I left that industry to found a company focused on web and mobile development for small businesses. During that time I started hearing about businesses like mine that were being funded millions of dollars. And I wondered, why is nobody giving me a million dollars?
I realized there’s this whole industry called venture capital. It combined my two biggest passions: entrepreneurship and investing. I became a VC investor after business school with a fund called TenOneTen.
Sarah: What’s your investment thesis and focus?
Austin: The entire premise of the firm is rooted in this idea of economic inclusion. This translates into two areas of investment: the first is technology for small- and medium-sized businesses, and the second is the “culturally aligned consumer,” i.e., products and services that target overlooked demographics with the potential to become category-defining companies. We’re usually the first institutional check into a startup, and we often lead most of our deals.
Sarah: What’s your favorite career accomplishment to date?
Austin: When we brought all of our founders together for Slauson Summer Camp. The retreat focused solely on wellness because a company can’t run well if its people don’t take care of themselves. Seeing these entrepreneurs (often from underrepresented communities) learn to support and lean on each other was transformative. They are now closer-knit than we ever could have imagined.
Sarah: What are you excited about for the future of venture and startups?
Austin: After 2016, there was a boom in the number of new VC firms, and existing investors thought it would have a negative effect on the industry. But I’m thrilled about the varied perspectives that were added to the capital allocator community as a result. To me, the idea of capital being more representative of the country that we live in is one of the most exciting things out there.
If you’d like to learn more about Austin, give him a follow on Twitter! And be sure to stay tuned for the next spotlight, publishing next week.