Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A new platform launches today to make connections between Black founders and a select group of top-tier venture capitalists, two groups that too rarely find themselves on the same term sheets.
Driving the news: It's part of Valence, a LinkedIn-type social network for Black professionals. Valence today also will announce a new CEO: Guy Primus, founder and former CEO of The Virtual Reality Co.
Backstory: Kobie Fuller, a partner with LA-based Upfront Ventures, says that his firm began putting diversity clauses into their funding agreements, but quickly realized that startups often didn't have adequate networks to find the best candidates.
- "I kept getting asked for introductions to Black candidates, but we don't all know each other," Fuller tells me. "So I thought it would be interesting to create an interactive platform for the Black community to find each other, just to take that issue off the table."
- Upfront plugged $1 million into Valence, which launched its beta last November and now has nearly 8,000 members.
- Fuller adds: "There are all these VCs saying they want to meet Black founders. So we've now created a network of the best VCs to be on the platform to do just that. Everyone we asked said 'yes' — from places like Accel, Sequoia, GGV, USV, Greylock, and CapitalG. They specify the types of deals they're looking at, and some partners will have open office hours, hold open office hours, or mentor founders. We offered to help firms with qualifying inbound deal flow, which some took us up on."
Why it matters: As we recently noted, only 1% of VC-backed founders between 2013 and 2018 were Black.
Neither Fuller nor Primus would disclose Valence's business model, except to say it definitely doesn't plan to be a nonprofit.
The bottom line comes from Primus, who will remain on The VR Co.'s board:
"Just two weeks after Kobie and I met about Valence, COVID hit and the unemployment numbers started showing African Americans were disproportionately affected. Then George Floyd.
"I can't just be on the sidelines. It's great to be one of the success stories, but I'd rather be one of the change agents."