Capitalist or Coward: Thoughts from an emerging Black VC
No race has a monopoly on vice or virtue, and the worth of an individual is not related to the color of his skin. ~ Whitney M. Young
Yesterday Pitchbook put out the article: “Black VCs could face bigger hurdles in venture market slowdown”. In the article, they mention how many LPs started adding diversity mandates to their funds in the wake of the “racial awakening” in the US after the murder of George Floyd. This awakening helped lead to a boom of Black-led venture funds and more Black people getting hired in the industry, yet the percentages of Black people in venture capital hasn’t changed much as Venture Capital has grown exponentially over the last 3 years.
But progress is progress, right? Maybe.
As the article goes on it starts to talk about how this funding that has been allocated to diverse fund managers may start to dry up as we see the stock market taking a big hit. With these large institutional LPs losing money in the capital markets they may start to get tight-fisted and go back to what they know. What they know is investing in White male-run venture funds who come from ivy league schools, investment banking, or worked at a top-tier venture fund. Another way to think about this is that these LPs think investing in Black and other diverse fund managers is riskier than investing in the White male fund managers I mentioned earlier.
Again my Black body is offensive to you.
Our Black bodies are not welcomed.
#BlackExcellence is cool for a tweet but not at your table
Yup investing in me is riskier to them and they can and will try to create millions of reasons for why. This is not surprising or unexpected. Nope, I saw this coming.
Do you know how I saw it coming?
It was how deafeningly loud their silence was. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, many came out advocating for investing in more Black founders and fund managers. Many people except most institutional LPs. That’s right, those who are at the top of the food chain in venture capital said nothing. This leads to the question of why not. For me, the only reason I can come up with is because — They don’t care.
This is one of the reasons I never wanted to be known as only a Black VC investing in Black and Brown-led companies and one of the reasons RareBreed Ventures doesn’t have a diversity mandate. My goal has always been to create a large multistage venture capital firm based out of Baltimore, Maryland. I also knew that such a label and mandate could make it harder for me to accomplish those goals.
So, I focus on making the best investments possible in the best companies possible. That way I can walk into meetings with these LPs, who will automatically assume RareBreed Ventures focuses on diverse founders because I’m Black and advocate for diverse founders, and focus on the money invested in companies and the growth in the value of that money. Because that’s what they truly care about at the end of the day, nothing else. So, that’s what I give them, a list of logos of companies that are doing well and look like they have the potential to be unicorns. Many times in industries and verticals these LPs haven’t considered before. That is how I’m going about currently raising RareBreed Ventures Fund II which will be $75M+. That’s a big jump from a $10M fund I but the performance of our portfolio and lack of capital to truly support our thriving companies warrants it. (If you are interested in being an LP in our Fund II fill out this form)
The fact that 70% of the founders behind those logos are underrepresented founders is something I might care about but they don’t. No, what they will see is differentiated deal flow and a diversified portfolio with the opportunity to generate alpha. Basically, they will see that I invested in companies they hadn’t heard of or weren’t on their radar from the other VCs they invested in that are doing well and could lead to a lot of money for them. That’s what it’s about, all they care about is “Show Me The Money!”.
To be clear, that is our job as venture capitalists, to make LPs money. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. How I go about doing that, I’ll just keep doing my thing and showing them overperforming companies while avoiding labels that might make LPs think twice.
This is no disrespect to my peers and friends like the folks at Backstage Capital, Harlem Capital, Zeal Capital, Overlooked Ventures and many others focused on diverse founders and are Loud and Proud about it. I love them all and will co-invest with them all. I’ve just chosen a different strategy and that is to invest in everybody. I don’t care who you are, I just want to invest in the best founders, and that is what we do at RareBreed.
So does that make me a coward? I think my track record speaks for itself on that end. Hell, people called Whitney Young an uncle tom, so if you think what I’m doing is cowardly, to each their own.
Some track record for folks
Does this make me a Capitalist? Of course it does, I’m a VC. Capitalist is literally in the name of the job LOL.
Really what I am at the end of the day is a proud Black man from Baltimore who is breaking many of the rules in venture capital my way and helping others to do it their way.
I’m good with that.