Silicon Valley’s Unicorns are in trouble. With late 2019 news about WeWork and other billion-dollar startups floundering after significant investment from VCs, many have been asking if just a small percentage of the billions were invested in women and people of color, where would we be today? After all, diverse teams show significant returns to investors and have a higher track record of success than all-white male teams. But, hey, what do I know?
While there have been notable efforts to bridge the chasm of funding Black and Latinx founders receive, the overwhelming majority of VC’s continue to invest in younger versions of themselves. In fact, most venture-backed startups are “overwhelmingly white, male, Ivy League-educated, and based in Silicon Valley,” according to a recent study conducted jointly by DiversityVC and RateMyInvestor.
Still, Black and Latinx women are the fastest-growing sector of entrepreneurs, and they are starting businesses that ultimately contribute jobs and dollars to the overall economy. Despite this impressive feat, they are still not viewed as viable investments. So how to solve the problem? One way, I think, would be to increase the number of Black and Latinx women VCs.
Though significant barriers remain to women of color receiving funding, there are female VCs who have stormed the proverbial gates of venture with the goal of leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs who don’t fall into the SV mold.
Below are 10 ambitious black female venture capitalists who are investing in entrepreneurs from all demographics but cast their net wider. These talented trailblazers have the ability to spot non-obvious deals that other VCs may miss at the early stage:
1. Melissa Bradley, Managing Partner – 1863 Ventures
Melissa Bradley is the Managing Partner of DC-based 1863 Ventures and co-founder of Ureeka, an online community marketplace for business owners. A dynamic speaker and advocate for people of color in tech, Melissa served as a Presidential Appointee under Presidents Clinton and Obama.
In 2015, Melissa launched Project 500 in Washington, D.C. with the goal of helping 500 underrepresented founders scale their companies. She exceeded that goal and upon seeing the dearth of funding for entrepreneurs of color, she set her sights on venture capital. She founded 1863 Ventures with just that goal. Today she runs her own fund and is an advisor to the New Voices Fund, which is run by Rich Dennis of Essence.
You can follow her here: @bradleyml
2. Sarah Kunst, Managing Director – Cleo Capital
Sarah Kunst, managing director of Cleo Capital, is an investor and entrepreneur who has worked at Apple, Red Bull, Chanel & Mohr Davidow Ventures. She was the founder of LA Dodgers backed Proday. She is also a contributing editor at Marie Claire Magazine. Her philanthropic interests include the boards of the Michigan State University Foundation Endowment.
Kunst has been named a Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 and a top 25 innovator in tech by Cool Hunting. She has been recognized for her work in Business Insider as a 30 under 30 Woman in Tech and Top African-American in Tech & Pitchbook Top Black VC To Watch and Marie Claire Magazine named her a Young Gun to watch. She has written for Techcrunch, Forbes, Wall St. Journal, Fortune and Entrepreneur.com. Marc Andreessen named her one of his 55 Unknown Rock Stars in Tech.
You can follow her here:@sarahkunst
3. Arlan Hamilton, Founder + Managing Partner – Backstage Capital
Arlan is perhaps one of the most outspoken voices in venture right now. She uses her social media platforms not only to promote her venture firm Backstage but also to talk candidly about challenges facing ‘underestimated’ startup founders.
Arlan built her venture capital fund from the ground up, while experiencing stints of homelessness. She is well-known for being the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a fund that is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBT. Backstage has now invested nearly $7m into 130 startups led by underestimated founders. Portfolio companies include Capway, Goalsetter, Blendoor, and My Money My Future, among others. In 2018 Arlan co-founded Backstage Studio, which launched Backstage Accelerator.
You can follow her here: @ArlanWasHere
4. Monique Idlett-Mosley, Founder and Managing Partner – Reign Venture Capital
Monique Idlett-Mosley made her transition from the music business managing top acts and founded Reign Ventures in 2017. Her $25m fund invests at the seed and Series A stages because she believes that women should support and invest in one another. Before founding Reign, however, Idlett-Mosley cut her teeth as a successful advertising executive and after that was an avid angel investor. During that time, she was shocked to find only a few minority founders. This led her on a mission to be intentional about investing in founders of color. To date, Reign Ventures has invested in startups such as Solo, LSNR, and Wizely Finance.
You can follow her here: @Monique_Mosley_
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