Jun 3, 2020 - Economy

Venture capital reckons with its racial disparities

An illustration of someone holding a coin.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is not the primary cause of, nor primary solution to, America's racial inequities. But as a major driver of wealth and opportunity, it does exacerbate them.

How it works: Black men are woefully underrepresented within VC firms at just 2%, based on the most recent data. Black women don't even rank a percentage point.

  • Only 1% of VC-backed founders between 2013 and 2018 were black.
  • Historically black college and university endowments are rarely limited partners in VC funds.

The big question: How can this change?

The past week does seem to have shaken many in the VC community. Or maybe slapped them in the face.

  • There have been the obligatory tweets of solidarity.
  • There have been large, personal donations made to organizations focused on racial justice. This includes more than $200,000 now pledged to the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund for our Peloton ride this Saturday (full details on that tomorrow).
  • SoftBank today announced a $100 million fund, backed by its balance sheet, "to invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color."

It's all important. Laudable. Could help begin to reduce economic inequality in the short and long terms. But, moving forward, there's another thing to do that doesn't cost anything but time.

What's next: On Thursday at 3pm ET, a group called BLCK VC is hosting a virtual event called "We Won't Wait." It will begin with a moment of silence, and then feature a group of black investors and founders sharing personal stories of their challenges within tech, stories of racism within the industry, and what they're feeling at the current moment.

  • The goal, in the words of Storm Ventures' Frederik Groce, is to "jump-start internal conversations."
  • Every good investor, and journalist, knows that their job is more about listening than talking. And that understanding can lead to action, such as expanding employment and investment opportunities in a structural way that persists once this moment has passed.
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