After the killing of George Floyd by police, and the weeks of protests that followed, many investors took to social media to announce they were going to support Black founders. Many of those founders had a ready response. They didn't need mentoring or coaching or technical advice. Instead, allies could show they were serious in two ways: Send the wire, make the hire.
Below is a list of investors with a history of doing just that. In many cases, their funds were formed specifically to support entrepreneurs who don't fit the demographic mold favored by most venture capitalists. We've also listed grant programs that work specifically with founders from communities of color.
AXS Law Group, a Miami-based law firm, recently launched an initiative to provide free legal services to Black entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. Their AXS Roadmap Initiative will provide services such as filing trademarks, writing nondisclosure agreements, and negotiating leases. Applications went live on July 1. Learn more about how to apply here.
The Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce has established a Black Business Relief grant fund for Black-owned businesses in San Diego. Their site is currently taking applications, with no specified due date nor specified grant amounts to be awarded.
iFundWomen is partnering with Visa to award 10 Black women entrepreneurs a $10,000 grant and a one-year iFundWomen annual coaching membership. Applications will be accepted through July 31.
Lowe's, the home-improvement retailer, is awarding small-business grants. The company says it's looking especially for "those businesses in underserved communities owned and led by minorities and women." Round four of the grant program will begin accepting applications on July 27.
The New Voices Foundation provides early-stage companies led by women of color with personalized help, either through grants, education, or pitch competitions. One past winner of a pitch competition is the dessert company Partake.
The Oakland Black Business Fund supports Black entrepreneurs in Oakland, California, by providing capital and technical advice. The fund is currently accepting applications for its first phase, which will make grants of up to $5,000 for Black-owned businesses in Oakland whose brick-and-mortar stores were looted or damaged during the Black Lives Matter protests. Apply here.
Shea Moisture launched a $1 million fund to support minority and women of color business owners affected by the pandemic. The fund is aimed at supporting small businesses in the hospitality, e-commerce, and wellness industries, along with other businesses that serve their communities. To start, 10 business owners will receive $10,000 each and will have to outline how the money will be used to minimize costs and help them better serve their communities. Learn more and apply here.
The SoGal Foundation, formed by venture firm SoGal Ventures (see below) partnered with WinkyLux, Bluemercury, TwelveNYC, and Lively to launch their Black Founder Startup Grant for Black female or Black non-binary entrepreneurs. Grant recipients will receive one of three grants at $10,000 each or one of six grants at $5,000 each, and will also receive help and advice on fundraising from the SoGal Foundation and its venture teams. Learn more and find instructions on how to apply here.
AmplifyHer Ventures is an early-stage fund investing in female founders and diverse leadership teams specializing in commerce, health care, and technology that helps people connect. Their portfolio includes Aavrani, a skin-care brand inspired by South Asian beauty secrets, and Copper Cow Coffee, which sells Vietnamese coffee and tea.
Backstage Capital was one of the first funds to invest solely in women; founders who are indigenous, Black, or people of color; and those of the LGBTQ community. Founder Arlan Hamilton is well-known for her advocacy on behalf of these entrepreneurs. Portfolio companies include Journey Foods, a food science and research company, and Color Farm Media, an entertainment and media company.
Collab Capital invests exclusively in Black-owned, early-stage startups that are in the technology or technology-enabled industry. This new fund anticipates that average investments will range from $15,000 to $1 million.
Chingona Ventures runs a $10 million seed-stage fund that invests in entrepreneurs who identify as women or people of color. They focus on rapidly evolving industries, with portfolio companies such as Encantos, which supports culturally inclusive media and educational brands for kids, and cannabis retailer and marketplace Leaf Trade.
Color invests in early-stage companies and entrepreneurs who are female, people of color, or otherwise "underestimated," working in the retail, e-commerce, and consumer product industries. Founded by Jaime Schmidt and Chris Cantino after Schmidt agreed to sell her company, Schmidt's Naturals, to Unilever in 2017, the firm's portfolio companies include Live Tinted, an inclusive beauty brand, and Ethel's Club, a social and wellness space for people of color.
Elevate Capital's $13 million Inclusive Fund invests in companies led by LGBTQ, female, veteran, Black, and Latinx entrepreneurs. Portfolio companies include Hue Noir, an inclusive makeup brand, and Blendoor, a company that helps recruiters diversify their hires.
Founders First Capital Partners provides revenue-based financing to growth-stage companies. Founded in 2015, the firm's $100 million fund supports underrepresented entrepreneurs, including women of color and military veterans working in service-based industries. Their portfolio companies include Quality Interactions, which provides cultural competency training to health care workers, and technology consultants Klarinet Solutions.
Harlem Capital Partners invests in early-stage companies across all industries. With a $25 million fund, the firm wants to focus on companies run by Black, Latinx, and female founders. Their portfolio companies include Beauty Bakerie, a makeup company, and Shine, a self-care and wellness app.
The New Voices Fund, whose website is currently under construction, was established when Richelieu Dennis sold his company, Shea Moisture, to Unilever in 2017. At $100 million, it's one of the largest funds to invest specifically in women entrepreneurs of color. Among their investments is Beauty Bakerie, a makeup company.
Portfolia Rising America Fund invests specifically in people of color and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. Their first investment was with Mobility Capital Finance, a banking company. The fund will make seed investments in up to 12 startups.
Precursor Ventures invests in seed-stage founders who represent a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of gender, race, academic experience, and life circumstances. They've invested in TasteMakers Africa, a company providing travelers with immersive tours of Africa.
Realist Ventures makes seed-stage investments in underrepresented investors, including women, people of color, and LGBTQ founders. They've previously invested in BandwagonFanClub, a sports fan analytics company.
Reign Ventures invests in women and people of color. The firm's goal is for at least half of its entrepreneurs to be Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Reign is an investor in Lisnr, a contactless transaction company.
Revolution invests in technology-enabled companies outside of tech hubs in California, New York, and Massachusetts. That's resulted in a more diverse portfolio, with nearly one-third (28 percent) of their founders being Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Founded in 2005, the company's portfolio includes Tala, a technology company that assigns credit scores through an app, and Benchprep, an online learning service.
SoftBank Group launched a $100 million Opportunity Fund to support Black, Latinx, and Indigenous entrepreneurs. The fund invests in companies across both early and growth stages that are using technology to innovate and challenge traditional industries.
Additional reporting by Mariyam Khaja and Melissa Santoyo.