More and more companies are putting their heads together to find effective ways to fully support minority founders and entrepreneurs amid the widespread protests of systemic racism across all industries.
Investment firm Siebert Williams Shank and software giant Microsoft have decided to partner to launch the Clear Vision Impact Fund L.L.C. for small businesses, with an initial $25 million seed investment from the latter, Forbes reports.
“This is just the first step to building a more diverse and equitable playing field and we look forward to the opportunities that this investment will help create,” Microsoft CIO Tahreem Kampton said in a press release announcing the fund’s launch.
The newly-launched joint fund has a target size of $250 million total, according to Black Enterprise, and aims to invest both growth and operating capital in small and medium-sized businesses, with a focus on minority-owned businesses to emphasize social impact.
“We are extremely pleased to have Microsoft’s critical support in delivering the commercial and social resources necessary to strengthen underperforming communities,” said Siebert Williams Shank chairman, Christopher Williams, in a news release. “Our role in helping to implement Microsoft’s vision of community support is a recognition of the vital role that small businesses play in their communities, particularly during this period of widespread economic distress.”
According to Forbes, Siebert Williams Shank originally approached Microsoft with the idea for this fund — back in 2019 — to amplify economic growth in communities with high unemployment rates, poor housing and underperforming school systems.
These already detrimental issues have increased greatly due to the pandemic, and in an effort to eliminate these problems Siebert Williams Shank and Microsoft have developed a solution that engages suffering businesses.
“With the onset of [COVID-19], we determined that the problems were even deeper and broader than we had anticipated or even existed last year, which led to us really accelerating the conversation,” Williams shared with Forbes.
The mission for the Clear Vision Impact Fund is to now support and uplift diverse businesses and strengthen the economy.
“We want to make sure that the benefits go beyond just the generation of increased profits or revenue within a company, and so we’re focused on a number of different factors,” said Williams to Forbes.
Chairman Williams shared with Forbes his hopes for the fund that it will help create more subsequent capital funds and equitable opportunities for founders of color to thrive.
“I don’t want to imply that this [fund] is the sole answer,” he said, “but we have to start somewhere and this is one tool that many well-intentioned companies are using.”
Back in November, the well-known financial firm led by equity partners Henry Cisneros, Suzanne Shank and Williams closed on a merger deal making it the largest women-led and minority-owned investment bank in the country.
For more information on the Clear Vision Impact Fund, click here.