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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."

Go deeper

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro.

4 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.

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