In any sports competition, coaches go into each game with a specific strategy. From determining who will be a part of the starting lineup to tricking plays to throw the opponent off, every game is built with tools to ensure the team’s success.
But what happens when the tried-and-true approach to the game no longer works?
For the more traditional and antiquated coaches, they will more than likely stick to the routine, hoping everything will work itself out. However, for those who desire to see change on the fields or courts, the coach will implement a new strategy and approach aimed at getting the results they’ve planned for.
The same can be paralleled in the world of tech. Although the industry is experiencing challenging times due to the current job climate, the field still suffers from diversity. According to a 2023 McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility report, Black people represent 12% of the United States workforce, while only 8% hold tech jobs.
The people at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) recognized this disparity, but rather than sit on the sidelines and remain idle, the venture capital firm decided to take tangible action by launching the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF), consisting exclusively of Black cultural leaders and organizations committed to Black wealth generation.
Over the past five years, Andreessen Horowitz has used the CLF to grow and evolve access to career paths and diverse leadership representation in technology roles as a gateway to building Black generational wealth. The work of the fund aims to connect cultural leaders to emerging tech companies while engaging upcoming Black technologists.
A significant part of CLF’s mission is to partner with organizations that aim to increase the skills necessary for the tech industry. The partner organizations are a part of what CLF considers its Ecosystem Partners.
These partners help upskill Black talent nationally and are integral in job placement across the tech industry. As a result of their mission work, CLF provides a significant investment in the partner organizations to thrive.
“So when we first launched CLF, in 2018, we committed to donating 100% of our management fee to nonprofits that were in service of that second mission of getting more young African Americans and tech,” Megan Holston-Alexander, Andreessen Horowitz Partner and Cultural Leadership Fund Lead, explained exclusively to AfroTech.
This investment model to reach its diversity and generational wealth-building goals has been successful, initially working with 11 nonprofit organizations. CLF is welcoming four new Ecosystem Partners:
- ColorStack, Inc. helps Black and Latinx computer science students earn degrees and get hired nationwide.
- The Colorwave Project, Inc. provides leaders of color access to roles at VC-backed startups.
- The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.
- The Marcy Lab School is a college alternative that helps students unlock the skills and the network needed to launch a financially rewarding, purpose-driven career in tech.
Although this model has its benefits, Holston-Alexander noted there was room for the firm and its fund to be more innovative in its approach.
In order to ensure folks did not get left behind, the fund created its Community Builder program, a one-time grant program eligible for renewal that focused on supporting newer waves of tech such as crypto with smaller organizations and those working on unique and nuanced projects.
“It has been so awesome that we’ve got to really help a lot of core projects that smaller organizations were doing to get to a place where they could start to scale and grow and bring in more people,” Holston-Alexander said.
The one-time donation partners allow the firm to be more hands-on and invest in specific focus areas impacting the future of tech and wealth, such as Web3. The incoming cohort of Community Builders are:
- Black@: a token-gated virtual community that provides a safe space for Black founders, creators, investors, and community builders to connect to resources, business opportunities, social experiences, and one another.
- Black Collegiate Gaming Association: provides education, access, and career opportunities in the gaming and esports industry for Black and women of color who are high school and college students.
- Black Women In Blockchain: inspires, trains, and activates a talent and economic pipeline of Black women pursuing professional and entrepreneurial careers in Blockchain and fintech.
- Black in Gaming Foundation: a community that cultivates, supports, and promotes Black professionals in the video game industry.
- National Math and Science Initiative HBCU Teach: supports HBCUs in developing permanent STEM teacher preparation pathways.
And just when the folks may have thought CLF had maximized its innovation, the firm leveled up with the launch of its Black Digital Art Collective – “a decentralized autonomous organization focused on increasing Black artists and creators’ presence and influence in web3 while also educating the Black community on crypto and web3,” the press release said.
CLF made a $375,000 commitment over three years to fund Black digital artists and the creation of their work. The mission is to support those artists by purchasing their art and helping them get into galleries and museums nationwide for greater exposure.
“We purchased Black digital art, and we highlight it, and the hope is that it will grow in value so that those artists can continue to make money. And it’s on the Blockchain,” Holston-Alexander pointed out.
Andreessen Horowitz’s commitment to the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund is just the beginning for the firm as it stakes out opportunities to continue expanding its work and impacting the Black community, specifically regarding technology.