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.
Sarah: How did you become VC investors? Walk us through your career journeys.
Ivan: LaDante and I realized very early in our careers that the tech industry had huge potential for innovation and economic change within our communities. We first began our business relationship as startup founders but kept running into friction within the VC landscape. Investors just weren’t backing people who looked like us—the reality is, human beings do things they’re most comfortable with, and for the past 50 years, VC investors have primarily backed a certain type of entrepreneur from a certain background that looks a certain way. And they made a lot of money doing it. As two successful Black men who didn’t come from that environment, we knew there was a huge, untapped market that venture was missing: 40% of the U.S. population to be exact.
LaDante: I didn’t have dreams to become a venture capitalist. But I felt a strong pull towards the idea of helping people who look like us put more money in their pockets. Quite frankly, I think of us as customer service members. We are of service to help these founders live their dreams by funding great ideas. The minute we start viewing ourselves in a hierarchical way, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Sarah: Tell me more about your investment focus.
LaDante: Black and Latinx entrepreneurs receive less than 1% of venture funding, but there’s actually a lot of financial opportunity in these communities. These groups create much more value in their business using just a fraction of the capital. We focus on seed-stage startups because founders need the most help during that time, and it’s in line with our values to be of service.
Ivan: With seed-stage investing, it’s also a lot easier for us to identify businesses that we believe have the potential to scale because they already have something to show for it, as opposed to just betting on ideas.
Sarah: What’s your favorite career accomplishment to date?
LaDante: Wiring a Black woman $2M.
Ivan: That was mine!! Also closing our debut fund from institutional LPs who didn’t look at us any differently than all of the other emerging managers they were evaluating.
Sarah: What are you excited about for the future of venture and startups?
LaDante: The ideas that are coming from the founder community. I really enjoy learning about the problems they’re trying to solve.
Ivan: I agree with that. I’m also excited about the long runway we have ahead of us: a decade plus! It’s exciting to be in a position to source these founders, talk to amazing people who are building amazing things, and spend my professional career backing people that look like me.