Adeyemi Ajao is an investor and serial entrepreneur who has founded a number of global startup companies. His latest venture, Base10 Partners, today announced the firm raised $137 million, making it the largest inaugural fund launched by a Black-led venture capital firm.
“I thought, ‘How come this is the first time? This is interesting, shocking,” Ajao told CNN.
Base10 is a firm with a mission to disrupt the Silicon Valley culture of funding tech-first products by backing startups developing automation technology for industries like agriculture, logistics, waste management, construction, and real estate.
Ajao calls this “automation for the real economy” and says it’s “solving problems for 99 percent of people.”
The firm plans to invest between $500,000 and $5 million in early-stage companies. The fund has already completed 10 investments, one of which is Yellow, the bike and scooter sharing service that recently raised the largest amount ever for a Latin American startup at $63 million, according to TechCrunch.
“We are much more likely to fund someone that actually worked for eight years on a construction site and was like, ‘you know what, I think this could be done better and maybe I can make my life easier with automation,’ rather than a Ph.D in AI out of the Stanford lab that says ‘I think construction is inefficient and it can be done without people,’” Ajao told TechCrunch. “[We are] kind of flipping the paradigm in that sense.”
Though Ajao’s firm does not focus on providing seed funding to startups led by diverse founders, Base10 joins the ranks of well-known Black-led venture capital firms such as Backstage Capital. The firm led by investor, Arlan Hamilton, announced a $36 million fund earlier this year exclusively backing founders who are LGBT, women, and people of color.
The lack of diversity among tech entrepreneurs, investors, and workers is well documented and increasingly getting attention. Data collected by venture capitalist Richard Kerby shows only 3 percent of investors are Black. Only a slight improvement from 2 percent two-years-ago.
According to a report published by Digitalundivided, the median amount of funding raised by black women is $0. Overall, black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.
“I have an obligation to foster that network to make sure others succeed,”Ajao told the Financial Times. “The more the story is told, the more we can create role models.