Last July at the 2018 Essence Festival Richelieu Dennis announced a $100 MM fund, called New Voices Fund that is dedicated to funding women of color.
The endeavor began last year after Unilever acquired Sundial Brands and as part of the deal a $50 MM investment will be made into the New Voices Fund, with the plan to scale up to $100 MM, which they did just that.
The fund will focus on fashion, tech, and health & beauty products, these sectors excluding tech have been historically underrepresented in the venture capital world.
Also, it looks like the fund wants to be engaged from beginning to end by making investments at the seed stage and continuing to make follow-on investments up to the Series C round.
With all, this it is obviously a tremendous step forward for women entrepreneurs of color. However, $100 MM still isn’t enough – you might be asking how so…?
Fred Wilson, Co-Founder of Union Square Ventures states there are four components of a Startup Hub
- Capital (Specially from angel investors)
Although this primarily focuses on hubs geographically, I believe this same philosophy could be applied culturally as well. Venture Capitalist can invest anywhere and in anything if it’s within their “investment criteria”.
Tip: (Always review a venture/angel fund’s investment criteria before pitching to ensure they invest in your space. The worst thing you can do is pitch to someone that isn’t interested in your sector.)
The issue is most startups founded by women and even men of color struggle to get to the seed stage or a series A round. Hence the reason for angel investors to step in at those earlier riskier stages to help move them along to the next stage of institutional or sophisticated angel funding.
Angel investors of color are almost non-existent and that’s a huge problem especially if we want to see more of entrepreneurs of colors. The percentage of black and Latino investors, and venture capitalist is about 4%.
Angels invest in startups that they can identify with and not only do they just provide capital, they also provide insight and connections.
David Cheriton invested $100K in Larry Page and Sergey Brin back in 1998 to help launch Google, that investment today is worth $1 Billon.
What if Mr. Cheriton never made that investment – would we have the Google we know today…I don’t know?
This is just an example of the importance of angel investors in a startup community. Although, $100 MM is an amazing start – we still need successful men and women of color to open their checkbooks and seriously consider angel investing as an asset class for wealth creation.
So, that way we can see more emerging female led startups filling up the deal pipelines of not just New Voices Fund but other VC funds.
What do you think might be the solution? Classes to teach people of color how to be angel investors? If so, what would be the one question you would have regarding how to be an angel investor?