Growing up, I remember relating to characters I identified with like, Ace in Paid in Full, The Notorious B.I.G in his “Juicy” music video or even Omar in the hit series, The Wire. However, the game has changed in regards to role models. Now entrepreneurs are the rockstars with the Facebook movie (The Social Network) for example, illustrating entrepreneurship has now become popular culture. Let's get reflective real quick and ask ourselves an honest question: Do you identify with any of the characters you read about in Entrepreneur, Inc. or Forbes, let alone these movies? According to CB Insights 87% of VC-backed founders are White with less than 1 percent Black. The numbers are even more stark when we turn to the investors, whereby less than 0.5 percent are black. Nevertheless, here are some of the faces who are striving to improve diversity and inclusion in tech.
1. Charles Hudson
Charles founded Precursor Ventures in 2015, and raised over $15m to date, with over 50 investments—with over 16 percent of founders being black, and over 30 percent with at least one female founder.
Follow here: @PrecursorVC
2. Troy Carter
Troy is a music industry veteran who managed Lady Gaga and founded Atom Factory, the artist management agency. In 2016 he co-founded Cross Culture Ventures. I love their motto, "Our diverse skill set is a key asset and major differentiator."
Follow here: @Crossculturevc
Hakeem "Chamillionaire" Seriki successfully pivoted from a Grammy award-winning artist, to successful angel investor. He participated in a $1.5m Series A for digital media video network Maker Studios in 2010. Disney bought Maker Studio for $500m in 2014. He then went on to join Upfront Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) in March 2015.
Follow here: @chamillionaire
Nas is another musical legend turned investor. He founded Queensbridge Venture Partners (QBVP) and has invested in startups such as Casper, Genius, Dropbox and Lyft. As Nas said in USA Today, “I’d like to push [tech] more in the community I am from. It’s the new thing for the hustlers in the ‘hood.'”
Follow here: @Qbvp
5. Kathryn Finney
Kathryn is the founder of Digital Undivided, which fosters economic growth in communities through the support and training of women of color entrepreneurs. She started off originally as a blogger, writing about staying fashionable on a budget, before selling her blog. Now she is increasing the pipeline of women in tech.
Follow here: @KathrynFinney
6. Angela Benton
Angela has overcome cancer and is about to release a book sharing her story. She is the founder of NewMe Accelerator based in L.A., and has built a career based on investing in others. Her instagram has been a constant stream of inspiration and determination in the last 12 months.
Follow here: @ABenton
7. Lo Toney
GV (Google Ventures) is not a name to be taken lightly and Laurence (Lo) is Partner at the firm, with over 400 investments in their portfolio to date. He joined from Comcast Ventures who were focused on investing in early stage startups led by minority entrepreneurs.
Follow here: @Lo_Toney
8. Erik Moore
Firstly, the Base Ventures site is like a cinematic movie. You gotta check it out. Erik is an unsung hero within the investment world, and has backed companies such as Zappos, Pigeonly and yours truly, Blavity! It is no surprise Business Insider named him as one of the most influential African Americans in tech globally.
Follow here: @Basevc
9. Kanyi Maqubela
Kanyi is a well known partner at Collaborative Fund, but started from humble beginnings in South Africa before working on Obama’s election campaign in 2008. He is an advisor at Tristan Walker’s, Walker & Co., and his blog is a source of a diversity of thought. He also doesn’t hold back his views on Twitter!
Follow here: @KM
10. Brian Dixon
Kapor Capital is a fund with diversity in its DNA. Brian on a mission to make tech more inclusive. He joined Kapor Capital in 2011, originally as an intern, to get involved with impact investing. I love how he explains that, “making tech more inclusive is about more than just accessing untapped talent; it is about rethinking the kind of products that America makes.”
Follow here: @Mrstartup
11. Michael Seibel
From founder to investor, Michael previously co-founded two startups before joining Y-Combinator (YC) as a partner. You can catch him on the occasional AMA on Hacker News, and sharing pointers to potential YC candidates on interviews and what they should expect.
Follow here: @Mwseibel
12. Arlan Hamilton
Since 2015, Backstage Capital has invested nearly $2m across more than 40 companies led by underrepresented founders around the country. Arlan is founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, and she hosted an awesome podcast launched this year too.
Follow here: @ArlanWasHere
13. Monique Woodard
500 Startups' first Black Venture partner, Monique, believes that “the next wave of tech innovation will be driven by the activity of black and Latino consumers online.” She was recently featured in Essence magazines #Woke100 list too.
Follow here: @MoniqueWoodard
14. Marlon C. Nichols
Follow here: @MarlonCNichols
15. Nait Jones
For years, Nait Jones has been known as one of the major go-to-guys in Silicon Valley, as he operates at the heart of the tech ecosystem with Andreessen Horowitz, alongside another influential figure, Larry Erwin. He shares insightful and thought provoking posts on Medium about culture and tech.
Follow here: @NaithanJones
These are just 15 of many more investors from diverse backgrounds. Other notable mentions include Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbit, Tristan Walker from Walker & Co., as well as Code2040 and Lupe Fiasco's Neighbourhood Startup Fund. Hip Hop music in the 90s helped shape the culture of how we grew up, now entrepreneurship is shaping the culture for the rising stars from our communities.
Follow me @AndysHVC for more stories on founders & investors from diverse backgrounds.