We know the numbers. Only 1% of VC-backed companies have Black founders. Only 2% of firms have members on their investment team that identify as Black. The dual-sided underrepresentation makes this a frustratingly cyclical problem. Ignited by the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, we are experiencing a moment of national reflection to address the embedded inequalities that plague our society.
In this light, VC firms, startups and corporations are clambering to demonstrate their commitment to representation. To which, I applaud. However, the systemic flaws of this industry are not fixed by a single investment or a single hire. VC firms must revisit their entire recruiting process and expand the sources of their dealflow. If we are to make entrepreneurship equitable and inclusive, then we need to anchor in communities and institutions that support talent that have historically been overlooked.
For that reason, I'm excited to announce the PledgeLA Fund for HBCU entrepreneurs. The 2020 PledgeLA Cohort, will act as fund managers and deploy $5,000 grants (equity-free) to startups founded by HBCU students and alumni. The full announcement, and application, can be found here on the announcement we released last week.
Personally, HBCUs have been fundamental to my family's progress, going back to my great-grandfather who attended Lincoln University. While there, he learned deeply from his peers, as he was roommates with Langston Hughes and friends with Thurgood Marshall and Kwame Nkrumah. As noted in the announcement article, “There is an incredible amount of innovation arising from the HBCU community. According to Black Engineer, ‘over the last 30 years, Black colleges have received utility patents in energy, advanced manufacturing technology, nanotechnology, alternative fuel technologies and breast cancer treatment.’ HBCUs are also a road for social mobility within the Black community, and when founders from within these schools launch into success, it begins a cycle of opportunity for future talent.”
What are the next steps?
If you are an entrepreneur with an HBCU affiliation, we encourage you to apply. If you have a strong network of HBCU-affiliated students or grads, we ask that you share this opportunity. Lastly, if you are a VC or donor, we challenge you to support this initiative, both by supporting this non-dilutive funding initiative, as well as establishing a regular engagement with the 107 universities tirelessly training the next wave of innovation.
If you have any questions, please contact us at VCLab@HBCU.vc