Despite their many differences and approaches, one perspective many athletes share is that to change the game; you have to be in it. As we’ve seen repeatedly, a positive shift in any game does not always come from one person. It takes a combination of skill and investment to move from just getting by to finding success.
And while Google doesn’t navigate on courts or fields, the organization is intentionally positioning itself as a game-changing catalyst for Black entrepreneurs.
In 2020, the tech giant made a series of commitments to help ease access to funding for Black founders and funders. The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund has since expanded globally, and AfroTech had the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups U.S., and Jeremiah Gordon, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for CapitalG, about the future of the Black Founders Fund and its intended impact.
How It All Began
There is little argument that 2020 was a transformational year on many fronts. One of the facts that rose to the top during this time was the oppressive nature and challenges faced by Black people. While much of this information wasn’t new, several organizations used this time to create programming and strategy to address these societal ills.
In 2020, it was revealed that Black founders raised less than one percent of all venture capital funds in the United States. This funding gap severely hindered Black entrepreneurs’ opportunity to thrive in similar ways as their racial counterparts.
As one solution to this issue, Google launched its Black Founders Fund which has dispersed $30 million in non-dilutive funds to Black founders, according to a press release provided to AfroTech. Additionally, Alphabet allocated $100 million to Black-led venture capital firms and organizations that support them.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Although Google’s initial investment is noteworthy, the organization is doubling down on that commitment by welcoming 50 additional entrepreneurs to the Black Founders Fund.
“I applied for Google for Startups Black Founders Fund because I wanted the opportunity to learn from key industry experts on how we can grow our company to increase our reach while remaining impact focused. I am really excited to have the opportunity to learn from other like-minded mentors and entrepreneurs who have the like-desire to build impact and equity into their businesses. The support will be used to continue to build out our elearning platform and community so that we can provide an even more impactful learning environment for our students,” said Wiz Kid Learning Founder Kyla Bolden, one of this year’s recipients.
The fund’s expansion allows Google to continue to support Black entrepreneurs who, in turn, have excellent support and capacity in Black communities.
“We’ve really been able to make a global impact with this program, giving both cash, mentorship therapy, support, and cloud credits,” Burks Solomon explained.
The tech company will also have its Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders. This accelerator provides technical support for later-stage startups, and a new group will begin the program this fall.
More Than Money
Starting a business is not for the faint at heart. From time commitments to personal sacrifices, entrepreneurs face a myriad of challenges when they try to build their businesses. For this reason, Google recognizes therapy as a critical component of the startup journey.
“This [therapy] has been super important, and we repeatedly hear from our founders that this is, you know, one of the most critical pieces to the program. We partnered with a Black woman-owned therapy in the coaching business out of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s called CWC coaching and therapy,” Burks Solomon said. “We subsidized therapy for all of our founders that are recipients of the Black Founders Fund for up to a year. They get free sessions working with world-class therapists, and there’s a whole team of therapists, so they can select who they want to work with.”
Therapy isn’t the only benefit the Black founders receive outside of cash funding. Each awardee receives cloud credits worth $100,000 for hands-on support from Googlers.
Funding The Source
Providing funding to Black founders is a game-changing step, but there are also Black venture capital firms that support Black businesses that, too, need assistance to level the playing field.
“We’ve got multimillion-dollar commitments as the limited partner in these firms, and these firms then go ahead and invest in founders themselves,” Gordon told AfroTech. “We’ve done sales training. We’ve done a bunch of other things to utilize the resources within Alphabet to help these fund managers, which is kind of a priority, but more importantly, to help these Black founders who are trying to grow their businesses.”
The Black-led firms that have received funding include Serena Ventures, Concrete Rose, Share Ventures, Black Tech Nation Ventures, Heirloom Capital Partners, Zeal Capital Partners, and Collide Capital.
Separate From The Rest
Since 2020, several business accelerators and funding programs have been created to amplify the work Black founders are doing. Despite this influx, Google believes its program has an edge.
“I think that we were one of the first programs to put our intentions out there and actually not just the intention, but actually the dollars out the door. I also want to be clear about the way that we’re getting dollars to these startups. It’s non-dilutive, and that’s something I will always repeat. We’re not taking any equity from the companies that we support via the Black Founders Fund,” Burks Solomon told AfroTech.
Change Is Imminent
The evolving job market has seen an increase in startup companies. And an influx in new businesses will ultimately mean more founders will need the same type of support that the current cohorts of awardees received.
“I think that the success of what these initiatives will do, from Jewel’s initiative to my initiative, to a bunch of other initiatives that we started out of sort of the ashes of the George Floyd tragedy, will produce real Black entrepreneurship and Black growth. And I think it’ll be a virtuous cycle where people, the folks that we’re investing in now, will make a bunch of money, and that’ll attract more capital. And so I think five to 10 years from now, you’re going to see more and bigger Black-led venture capital firms driven, if only just by the entrepreneurship,” Gordon emphatically stated.