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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

46 mins ago - World

U.K. prosecutors charge third person in poisoning of former Russian spy

Emergency services members in biohazard encapsulated suits encasing the poisoning scene in a tent in Salisbury, England, in March 2018. Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

U.K. prosecutors said they had enough evidence to charge Denis Sergeev, a member of the Russian military intelligence service, in the 2018 Salisbury nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy, according to AP.

Why it matters: Sergeev is the third person to face charges for the nerve agent attack against Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, both of whom survived.

2 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from the Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Democrats' dwindling 2022 map

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are trying to unseat only about half as many Republican House members next year as they did in 2020, trimming their target list from 39 to 21.

Why it matters: The narrowing map — which reflects where Democrats see their best chance of flipping seats — is the latest datapoint showing the challenging political landscape the party faces in the crucial 2022 midterms.

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