Navigating the tech space as a Black entrepreneur requires a certain level of perseverance to ultimately see their innovative ideas turn into reality. It’s this relentless determination that took Kelauni Jasmyn’s paper napkin idea to recently closing in on $25 million for her national technology venture fund — Black Tech Nation Ventures (BTN.vc) — in under a year.
Founding Black Tech Nation
Before becoming a founding partner of BTN.vc, Jasmyn created Black Tech Nation (BTN), a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping provide Black technologists and entrepreneurs with education, digital media, employment, and funding.
Fast forwarding from its launch in 2017 to 2021, the organization merged with Birchmere Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund, to birth BTN.vc with co-founders and general partners David Motley and Sean Sebastian, as previously reported by AfroTech.
BTN.vc’s mission is to invest in Black and diverse-led startups across the nation.
“I’ve done every single part of building a company [with BTN], so now to be able to take that and apply my personal knowledge to our future portfolio company is probably what I’m most excited about,” Jasmyn told AfroTech. “To be able to use all of the literal blood, sweat, and tears to then hopefully make it a little easier for the next entrepreneur who looks like me.”
Paying It Forward
Coming from a neighborhood right outside of Chicago that has faced tragedies due to gun violence, the Illinois native believes it would be a disservice to not lend a helping hand to innovators that have walked in similar shoes.
“I realized my blessing and privilege in this position and I don’t take it lightly,” Jasmyn shared. “I realized that my trajectory is not normal. What kind of person would I be coming from that type of neighborhood and background to not pay it forward. To not make sure that people who come from places like where I come from have an opportunity. Who would I be if I didn’t make sure that I was creating space. For me it’s all about paying it forward and using what I’ve gotten to open doors for other people.”
Black Tech Nation Ventures' Investors
While at the halfway mark of their $50 million funding goal, BTN.vc recently held a launch event at PNC Park to celebrate the milestone and officially announced their transition into their investment phase.
To kick off their announcement, David Boone, founder of BlendED, became BTN.vc’s first portfolio investment. Along with Boone are the Pittsburgh Pirates and First National Bank as fellow investors in the fund.
The Trajectory Of Black Tech
The BTN.vc team, its networks and supporters all having Jasmyn’s back has heightened her dedication to waking up the industry to see the value of Black and diverse startups and their founders. The fund’s rapid success stands as a win within the collective of Black investors, VCs and entrepreneurs, which Jasmyn believes has become a fruitful collaborative effort in the overall space.
As the community continues to rise, it should serve as a wake up call that Black technologists and innovators aren’t just the future, they’re the present moment and today is the time to fully invest.
“I feel like its gone from a social justice movement [after the passing of George Floyd] to being seen as a serious investor class,” Jasmyn said. “This is not just for play. It’s not charity. It’s not do good dollars. We’re a real fund with real people who have real ideas who can make real money. I want the industry to see these companies in our fund as an actual player in the overall venture and tech spaces.”