WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
How do you begin reversing decades of racism in venture capital? The first step, says Marceau Michel, is to precisely define success.
Forget nostrums about inclusivity, or hazy objectives of seeking women and BIPOC-run companies. When Michel and Himalaya Rao founded a VC fund, they put the goal in the title: Black Founders Matter.
Michel and Rao aim to provide $10 million to startups founded by Black entrepreneurs. By the end of the year, they will have raised $3 million. Their first investment was unexpected: Black Founders Matter is providing seed funding to children's book author Jelani Memory, who is launching a company called A Kids Book About to "help kids and their grownups have honest conversations about things that matter."
In this interview with WW editor Mark Zusman, the Portland duo explain that part of their task is to discourage would-be investors who see funding Black-run companies as philanthropy. In fact, Rao says, this is the exact opposite: Their project is about making money, not giving it away.
The two of them are just able to spot opportunities that white investors have ignored.