Smart reporting of the Black innovation economy

Andreessen Horowitz’s Cultural Leadership Fund Delivers on Culture, Minimal Investment into Black-Led Startups

By Sherrell Dorsey
July 13, 2020

Next month will mark two years since Chris Lyons announced the launch of the Cultural Leadership Fund, a $16.5 million dollar fund under the helm of the famed venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz. The fund was initially hailed as brokering investment opportunities between culture leaders in sports and entertainment like Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shonda Rhimes, Chance the Rapper, and others, to startups in next wave industries like gaming, health tech, fintech, analytics, artificial intelligence, and other Silicon Valley deep-tech experiments. 


Key Takeaways

  • Out of the 65 listed portfolio companies in the Cultural Leadership Fund, just 3 are led by Black Founders
  • 1 of the 3 investments were made before the fund was created
  • There is no public strategy on targeting any investments toward Black founders 

Since the fund’s inception, the CLF portfolio lists a roster of 65 companies—3 of which have at least one Black founder and 11 of which include at least one female founder. The remainder of the teams appears to be led by mostly white and Asian males. This is of no surprise as it is reflective of who’s already ahead of the line in terms of venture capital funding in the U.S., but it is surprising that there’s not a greater representation of startup founders who are Black not getting a greater piece of a pie that desperately has been touted as a relief or potential solution toward deeper investments into Blacks in technology. 


Lyons, who had served as chief-of-staff prior to transitioning into the role of partner and leader of the fund two years ago, took to stages and press interviews to help draw the connection between Black culture creators and the opportunities they’re missing when not represented as LPs in tech-oriented funds. 

The promises of the fund were basic: Connect the greatest cultural leaders in the world to the best new technology companies and enable more young African Americans to enter the technology industry. 

But there wasn’t much clarity on exactly how that would happen outside of using some of the profits and carry from the success of these companies to donate to nonprofit organizations working with underserved communities to get them into tech. 

Very little was described as to how simply helping wealthy Black icons amass additional wealth through tech investing would then translate into opportunity for Black founders themselves building companies within similar future-forward technologies. 

Perhaps Andreessen Horowitz’s latest fund, the $2.2 million dollar Talent x Opportunity Fund, led by Nait Jones, will provide additional incentive to invest in Black founders. 

Considering that the parent firm manages $12 billion in assets across its funds, $18.2 million allocated toward removing barriers to entry for Black investors and founders to earn greater representation within tech, undoubtedly feels paltry. 

Cultural Leadership Fund’s Listed Black-Led Portfolio Companies

Incredible Health

Founders: Iman Abuzeid, Rome Portlock

A16z Investment: $15 million, 2019

Hospitals and health systems use Incredible Health to hire permanent, high-quality clinical workers at scale and in less than 30 days.

 

Wonderschool 

www.wonderschool.com

Founders: Chris Bennett, Arrel Gray

A16z investment: $20 million, 2018

Wonderschool offers a platform where people can start infant and toddler programs and preschools out of their homes.

 

Mayvenn 

shop.mayvenn.com

Founders: Diishan Imira, Taylor Wang 

A16z Investment: $10 million, 2015

Mayvenn enables stylists to sell products directly to their clients without the upfront costs and burdens of holding inventory.

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