When Arlan Hamilton arrived in Silicon Valley only three years ago, she was determined to rectify the fact that diverse entrepreneurs lack startup funding.
“It was crazy to me that 90% of venture funding was going to white men, when that is not how innovation, intelligence, and drive is dispersed in the real world,” Hamilton told Fast Company. “I had no background in finance, but I just saw it as a problem.”
The founder & managing partner of Backstage Capital saw the lack of venture capital funding going to diverse startups as an opportunity to invest in untapped innovation. The firm has invested in $4 million in 100 companies and in May announced a $36 million fund for underrepresented founders.
Hamilton—who is featured on the cover of Fast Company’s October issue— is just one of a small group of Black women working to drive more funding to diverse founders.
Check out this list of five other Black women who are making moves in the venture capital community.
Monique Idlett-Mosley, Reign Ventures, New York, NY
Monique Idlett-Mosley is the Managing Partner of Reign Ventures, a venture capital firm founded in 2017 focusing on early-stage startups. Idlett-Mosley previously held a senior executive position at USA Today and later became the CEO of Mosley Brands and Mosley Music Group. The entrepreneur went from managing major music artists like One Republic and Nelly Furtado, to investing in women and minority-led startups.
While attending graduate school, Idlett-Mosley met her future business partner, Erica Duignan Minnihan, who was angel investing with 1000 Angels. Their conversations inspired her to found Reign Ventures, a $25 million fund working to change the narrative around entrepreneurship.
“Women need to invest early so that we can have a voice. When we don’t play early, financially, we risk that there’s no representation on a board,” Idlett-Mosley said to Entrepreneur.
From entertainment and marketing to entrepreneurship and investing, Idlett-Mosley is working to ensure that young businesswomen see different pathways to achieving success.
Ulili Onovakpuri, Kapor Capital, Oakland, CA
Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” Onovakpuri was promoted to Partner at Kapor Capital this year where she runs the firm’s summer associate program. Kapor Capital is an Oakland based venture capital firm investing in entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds across the fields of education, finance, health, work, and social justice.
Onovakpuri re-joined the Kapor Capital team in 2016, previously holding positions as an Investment Analyst, Research Analyst, Principal, and an Advisor at the firm. Growing up, she had aspirations to be a doctor, and though she changed her mind, her current work focuses on sourcing investment opportunities in the digital health and medical technology industries.
“Health care has always been my passion,” Onovakpuri said in an interview with Mercury News. “The number of folks I’m getting to help is so much more significant than if I had become a doctor.”
Prior to returning to Kapor Capital, Onovakpuri served as the Director of Global Programs at Village Capital, a global accelerator program and venture capital firm supporting startups in healthcare, education, agriculture, energy, and FinTech.
“It’s important to have individuals with different backgrounds and experiences because they will see products differently. They will understand different markets,” Onovakpuri said. “I wonder how many huge products were missed because some people didn’t have access to capital.”
Ebony Pope, Village Capital, Washington, D.C.
As the Director of US Ventures at Village Capital, Ebony Pope works to support ventures participating in the firm’s programs. She also ensures that there is diversity in Village Capital’s pipeline with regard to ethnicity, gender, and region founders come from.
“I really enjoy just working with entrepreneurs and knowing that I’m helping them to be sustainable and grow to a level that allows them to validate value prop and mission,” said Pope in an interview with The Muse.
Pope has experience working in tech and working with entrepreneurs abroad. Pope graduated with her MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 2015, focusing on strategy and entrepreneurship. As a graduate student, she served as the Education Circle Director for the Social Venture Fund at the university. Prior to Ross, Pope was an Account Strategist for Online Sales at Google.
Ita Ekpoudom, Gingerbread Capital, Menlo Park, CA
Ita Ekpoudom is a Partner at Gingerbread Capital, a women-led firm investing in women founders and entrepreneurs. Ekpoudom founded Tigress Ventures, an advisory and consulting firm, in 2014 to support the young women in business.
The founder and investor also served as a partner at Plum Alley Investments, an exclusive platform offering members an opportunity to invest in women entrepreneurs and gender diverse teams. In her role, Ekpoudom oversaw investment opportunities and the venture’s pipeline for high-growth female-founded and gender-diverse startups.
“I think raising money is hard,” Ekpoudom told Rolling Out. “The true unicorn in the investing space is Black women raising money. You can count on three hands the Black women who have raised 1 million.”
Prior to investing, Ekpoudom worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and held product management roles at TravelClick and American Express. She holds an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School.
Kesha Cash, Impact America Fund, Oakland, CA
As the founder of Impact America Fund, Kesha Cash works to invest in tech companies serving marginalized communities across the country. The $10 million fund seeks a positive return on their investment backing companies dedicated to social missions.
“In our world, the community that we care about are marginalized communities and particularly low and moderate-income communities,” Cash said to Marketplace. “I think our role as impact investors seeking market-rate returns is believing that if you can get fundamentally the core of a business right from the beginning, that’s actually a competitive advantage and should drive the growth of that company.”
Cash held positions at Merrill Lynch in NYC and at an impact investment firm in the UK before co-founding Jalia Ventures, a $5 million fund focused on investing in “mission-driven entrepreneurs of color.
Monique Woodard, Black Founders
Monique Woodard is the co-founder and executive director of Black Founders, a program with the mission of increasing the number of black entrepreneurs in tech. The organization was founded in 2011 and builds programming to empower black entrepreneurs to promote economic growth in the community.
The founder—and former investor at 500 Startups—has more than 10 years of consumers tech experience and created a mobile app called Speak Chic, which teaches you how to pronounce fashion labels. Woodard was also one of the first Innovation Fellows at the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and regularly speaks on topics relating to entrepreneurship, diversity, and inclusion.
“Entrepreneurship is about solving big problems, but too often, the venture community is only funding problems that half of the world deems important,” Woodard wrote on her site.
Shauntel Garvey, Reach Capital, San Francisco, CA
The team at Reach Capital is an early stage venture capital fund investing in technology addressing challenges in early childhood K-12, and higher education. At the helm is co-founder and general partner, Shauntel Garvey, an MIT Engineering and Stanford MBA graduate who started the firm in 2015.
Garvey’s experience as a partner at NewSchools, the Oakland-based nonprofit VC for education startups, led her to create Reach Capital, which supports entrepreneurs focused on tackling issues around accessing education in the tech space.
“The focus is on ensuring all students, no matter their backgrounds, have access to high-quality education to be successful in their lives,” Garvey told CNN.
Miriam Rivera, Ulu Ventures, Palo Alto, CA
Miriam Rivera founded Ulu Ventures with her husband, Clint Korver, in 2009, which now has one of the most diverse portfolios of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with 38 percent women, 29 percent minority, and 19 percent immigrant CEOs, according to a profile by Stanford Lawyer
Ulu is Hawaiian for “to grow and inspire”
“We’re not sacrificing anything by investing in women and minorities,” Rivera—a former Googler—said in the interview. “Our ability to look at startups objectively and pick the ones with great potential makes us a top-performing fund.”