Venture capital has a diversity problem.
BLCK VC, a new organization founded by Storm Ventures associate Frederik Groce and NEA associate Sydney Sykes meant to connect, engage and advance black venture capitalists, is ready for a new era in the industry.
Their mission: Turn 200 black investors into 400 black investors by 2024.
“We think of ourselves as an organization formed by black VCs for blacks VCs to increase the representation of black investors,” Sykes told TechCrunch.
“You can look around and say ‘well, I know five black VCs,’ but you can also say this firm does not have a single black VC, they may not even have a single underrepresented minority … We want to make firms reckon with the fact that there is a racial diversity problem; there is a lack of black VCs and every firm should really care about it.”
BLCK VC has been at work since the beginning of 2018, building and expanding a network of black investors in the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and New York. They seek to provide a community for black investors, a space for honest conversations and questions, and a resource for VC firms looking to make more diverse hires. Today at AfroTech, the organization is taking the wraps off its plan to diversify the VC industry.
“There’s an incredible need to ensure there are resources in place so people don’t churn out of the community; getting people in the door is only half the battle,” Groce told TechCrunch. “This is us saying ‘hey, get involved.’ It’s time to broaden and give others access to what we are doing. It takes a village if we really want to see things start to shift.”
According to data collected by Richard Kerby, a partner at Equal Ventures, 81 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor. Roughly 50 percent of black investors in the industry are at the associate level, or the lowest level at a firm; only 2 percent of black investors are partners at a firm.
“It takes a village if we really want to see things start to shift,” BLCK VC co-chair Frederik Groce told TechCrunch.
The lack of representation, especially in powerful positions, has made it difficult for black aspiring investors to enter the industry, as well as for black investors to stay in VC.
“VC, more than a lot of industries, is very network driven in the way that they hire,” Sykes said. “The network started 40 or 50 years ago with a lot of white men who had the wealth at the time to invest in companies. As VC has grown, a lot of the people who started it hired people they knew, there wasn’t an effort to recruit from outside of their network. That has made VC this very homogenous industry.”
Aside from Kerby’s data and a Harvard Business School study on diversity in innovation, there is limited data available on black VCs and funding for black founders. Digitalundivided‘s research arm ProjectDiane is one of the few organizations to report on funding for black female founders, for example. According to its latest report, black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.
BLCK VC’s board includes Adina Tecklu, a venture investor at Canaan Partners; Brian Hollins, a growth equity investor at Goldman Sachs; Earnest Sweat, an investment manager at Prologis Ventures; and Elliott Robinson, a partner at M12 Ventures.