Too often, Black founders are locked out of Silicon Valley before they even have a chance to get started, Marceau Michel, founder of venture capital firm Black Founders Matter, tells TechCrunch.
“It’s important we’re looking at the social justice movement from very different places,” Michel says. “It’s one thing for Black people to not be killed by the police — that’s just the baseline. We still have Black people locked out of economic opportunity.”
That’s why Michel has not given up on his mission to raise a $10 million fund to invest in Black entrepreneurs. Michel and I first chatted back in 2018, when he unveiled the fund. Between then and now, Michel worked for a VC firm in Portland to better understand how the industry works. He also toyed with the idea of launching an incubator for Black entrepreneurs, instead of creating a fund. But what he landed on was that the tech industry needs more deciders, he says. So far, Black Founders Matter has raised about $1 million for the fund.
“We’re not struggling to raise this fund now,” he says. “It’s very tangible and very much in hand. The investors we’re having conversations with understand the importance of the work we’re doing in investing in Black and diverse problem solvers make this society better.”
But it didn’t always feel like a feasible goal, Michel says. What’s makes it feel more achievable today is the heightened attention and conversations around racism in our society, he says.
“Now, because it’s in the national conversation and in people’s minds, these resources are coming in quicker and the investors we’re talking to get what we’re trying to do,” he says. “You can do great work and you can also get profits. Those things are not mutually exclusive. We’ve had to turn investors down that we’re looking at Black Founders Matter as a charity.”
Last month, Black Founders Matter made its first investment in a company called A Kids Book About, founded by Jelani Memory.
“In a world where we look at how Black lives matter but also how we look at the quality of Black life in this country, it’s about creating access for the community to be able to solve problems,” Michel says.
That’s what the fund’s first investment did. A Kids Book About, which published its first book on the topic of racism in October, helps solve a problem for all communities, he says. Black Founders Matter only invested $40,000, but that figure is more of a reflection of how much space was left in the round. Michel says Memory carved out that space for Black Founders Matter by turning down other checks. Beyond this investment, there are a number of other companies on the firm’s radar, but first, it’s a matter of getting the funds to invest.
“This whole experience of raising this venture fund and working in this space was an exercise in being patient and not forcing it before it was its time,” Michel says. “And now, it’s clearly time and the floodgates have opened. And we’re able to do it with integrity and authenticity. I’m not at a place where I need to convince people anymore. We’re able to have conversations with authority and not from a place of desperation. We’re able to be selective about who invests in our fund. We can be selective and that is a very good sign of the future of Black entrepreneurship.”