A note to early stage investors & founders.
Consider the story of investors such as Kirsten Green, founder of Forerunner Ventures and one of two women who featured on The Top 20 VCs Worldwide list by The New York Times. She represents diversity as she had never worked at a Venture Capital firm before starting her own in 2012, and she is also a woman in a male-dominated field. She achieved two billion dollar exits with Jet.com (acquired by Walmart) and Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever), demonstrating the value she brings as an inclusive investor.
Alternatively, there are founders such as Tristan Walker, CEO of consumer health and beauty brand, Walker & Co. Tristan isn’t your typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He originates from Queens, New York and was rejected initially by a number of investors who couldn’t relate to the acute problem he wanted to solve related to razor bumps on people of colour from shaving. Tristan has raised over $30M building a retail business dedicated to creating products for people from diverse backgrounds, embracing minorities with an inclusiveness Silicon Valley direly lacks.
One of the first investors to understand the market opportunity and believe in Tristan was award-winning New York rapper turned investor Nas (Nasir Jones). Nas is a Partner at Queensbridge Venture Partners, a firm invests in everything from bitcoin through to healthcare startups, as well as billion dollar companies such as Lyft and Dropbox.
Oakland based, Kapor Capital founded by Mitch and Freada Kapor needs no introduction. 44 out of 79 investments (56%) made to date have a founder who is a woman or a person of color from an underrepresented background. Kapor Capital proudly believes that investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs can yield new ideas, markets, and revenue streams that others have overlooked. So many mention worthy startups in their portfolio such as Uncharted Play, Lend Up and Angel List.
Finally let’s shed light on the transparent black, gay, female founder of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton. Once again, on paper she had no right to enter the Venture community as she was not previously an entrepreneur and she does not have an investment background. In fact, she was production coordinator for artists like Jason Derulo and Toni Braxton. Alongside Backstage, she is currently tour manager for Atlantic artist, Janine. She experienced homelessness and developed characteristics such as drive, grit, and determination along the way. She managed to raise two funds so far with over $2 million invested in over 50 women, People of Color or LGBT founders. The funds first investment went to facial recognition startup, Kairos which has gone on to grow strong over the last 24 months and attracted nearly $400k in additional funding this year from New World Angels.
Diversity in tech is here to stay and together we can continue to show how big a commercial opportunity it is to tap into underrepresented founders and investors.