Managing partner Henri Pierre-Jacques is well aware that reaching that number is a tall order. At an Inc. streaming event on February 24, he told Beatrice Dixon, co-founder and CEO of Atlanta-based feminine-hygiene business the Honey Pot Company, that he and his partner wanted a mission that would force them to stretch and be uncomfortable.
"Our belief is that the largest driver in closing the wealth gap is through equity and ownership," Pierre-Jacques says. Both he and his co-founder Jarrid Tingle came from careers in finance, and quickly realized there were structural problems in the investing world that were disadvantaging entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color.
"We didn't want to work for a firm with no Black partners, which was essentially 99 percent of firms," Pierre-Jacques says. Instead they began angel investing but felt like there was more to be done.
"If we really wanted to stick to our mission ... we had to raise a fund, because there was really no one out there doing what we wanted to," he says.
The partners launched New York City-based Harlem Capital's fund in 2015, and have now invested in 58 founders. How can you become one of the remaining 942 the firm is aiming for? Here are three things Pierre-Jacques looks for in entrepreneurs.
If you don't believe in yourself, why should an investor? "There is an inner cockiness or confidence for you to say, 'I'm gonna go out and do something nobody else has tried before,'" says Pierre-Jacques. "You have to own that. There are balances to how you present that externally, but internally you better have that cockiness turned all the way up."
2. Thick skin
Not everyone will want to invest. Getting told no is never easy, but Pierre-Jacques says it's something you'll need to get used to shaking off. He recalls pitching potential investors when developing Harlem Capital, being turned down, and growing frustrated. "I remember how that made me feel. And so it also makes me more cautious," he says. Now, as the one being pitched, he tries to provide more constructive feedback whether he decides to invest or not.
3. A long-term vision
Pierre-Jacques says you don't have to have all the steps figured out, but you do need to visualize a destination to get started--even if it seems far-fetched. For Harlem Capital, small steppingstones lead to bigger things.
"The belief for us is that diverse people hire more diverse employees," he says, adding that "when those diverse people have money to either invest as angels or go and start new companies, they're gonna be able to raise capital much easier. Now you have a new diverse company hiring more diverse people and [it] becomes cyclical."