Where Can Influential Companies Go to Meet Exceptional Black VCs?

Opinion

Culture Shifting Weekend—a November 1-3 invitation-only summit, presented by Culture Shift Labs (CSL)—will offer a rare opportunity for leading companies and investors to meet, vet, and fund the fast-growing ecosystem of Black venture capitalists and VC firms.

Hosted at Infor in New York City, Culture Shift Lab’s annual three-day event will enable institutional investors, social impact investors, corporate VCs, and the broader investment community to directly engage with this burgeoning niche of general partners.

More than 20 Black VCs will be speaking, including Daryn Dodson of Illumen Capital and Shauntel Garvey of Reach Capital. Fireside chats will feature Jeremy Liew (Partner at Lightspeed Ventures) speaking with Denmark West (General Partner at Connectivity Ventures); Fred Wilson (Partner at Union Square Ventures) being interviewed by Joanne Wilson (Angel Investor, Blogger, and Co-founder of Women’s Entrepreneur Festival, Gotham Gal Ventures); and a discussion between myself and Rachel Lam (Co-Founder at Imagination Capital). Additional speakers include Carl Linaburg (Co-founder, Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute) and Arindam Guha (Corporate Development – M&A, Investments & Strategy, IBM).

Attendees such as nonprofit foundations, fund of funds, family office CIOs, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and angel investors will be in attendance to learn firsthand about the current state of this niche ecosystem—what partnering models are working, what trends are impactful, and what deals are getting done.

More than 200 people are expected—double the number of Black VCs and institutional investors from last year’s similarly themed Weekend. As a result, CSL expects to multiply by 2x to 3x the amount of investments made from last year.

Within months of last year’s Weekend, three VCs had received $17 million in investments. Fifty million in additional capital is currently being considered for the VCs who attended the 2017 Weekend. Companies who can influence their clients to better understand diversity and inclusion from a return on investment lens showed up to the 2017 Weekend in a meaningful way.

Left to right: Nathalie Molina, Shawn Escoffery, Pat Zollar, Kashif Sweet. Culture Shifting Weekend, 2017.

The 2018 Weekend will be the largest-ever conference for Black VCs and institutional investors. Based on our primary research, my firm estimates that there are now at least 125 Black general partners currently seeking the right partners and paths forward for their funds. It’s phenomenal to know that the ecosystem we are building is facilitating surprising introductions, mutually beneficial deals, and impacting our nation’s standing in the global economy. But more than that, it’s an on-ramp for the best and brightest minds to co-invest and improve social impact. And If I can build this ecosystem, anyone can.

But this effort requires being deliberate about the time, money, and resources required over the long haul. It requires that companies and institutional investors be intentional about fixing what Silicon Valley calls “the 2 percent problem”: If companies and investors want to work with, and provide capital to, some of the best and brightest VCs, who also happen to be Black, then they need to expand their circles of influence.

CSL’s Katapult database features more than 2,000 affinity groups (such as women’s, veteran’s and Latinx organizations), and it is being leveraged by leading companies to help realize their diversity and inclusion aims. Our extensive database comprises more than 6,000 prominent inventors, innovators, C-suite executives, investors, subject matter experts, and VCs of color. Fortune 500 companies use it to help close the racial gap in an array of industries such as technology.

If I could build these databases from blank pieces of paper—mind you, I’ve also been in this space since 1999—it’s possible anyone can. And if they don’t want to, CSL can do it for them. That’s one way to shorten the distance between intention and outcomes.

Andrea Hoffman is an advisor, dealmaker, strategist, speaker, author and the founder and CEO of the management consulting firm Culture Shift Labs (CSL). CSL advises companies, cities and philanthropists on growth and innovation through diversity and inclusion (D&I). Andrea consults with C-suite executives across a wide range of industries on finding new growth opportunities. Follow @andreadiversity

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