“I have to say it was a good day.”
I’m so fucking pumped today. Really really. Yes, Valence announced> $ 5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. It’s a big deal, but I’ll come back to that. But Kamala Harris was selected as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate. That is, she will be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female black Vice President, and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, be ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We may have to fight for it after the voices go our way, but let’s get ready for the fight.
So let’s get it.
Value. It is a company with a mission to provide black entrepreneurs and executives with better access and more funding. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and was my partner’s idea Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital, click these links and follow them on Twitter.
What exactly is Valence and why is it important?
18 months ago my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to find a solution to a problem he faced regularly: as one of the few black partners in a VC company (an estimated 3% of general practitioners working in Gops are blacks versus 14% of the US population), he became consistently asked for warm intros for Black professionals, Black VCs and talented Black operators and entrepreneurs.
Venture firms wanted to meet talented black founders but didn’t know where to start finding them. And black entrepreneurs wanted access to decision-makers, but didn’t always have the easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally get when I suggest that founders “get an introduction to VCs” is that it could exacerbate existing racial imbalances by making it easier for white professionals to access than people of color.
There is clearly an imbalance in access and networks that has resulted in a technology industry where an estimated 1% of risky dollars go to black founders and only 3% of the workforce are black and in a country where black people are disproportionate low percentage of black companies are affluent – only 3%. As Kobie says, he didn’t have a “magic database” of great black talent, so he set out to develop a solution not just for himself but for the community as well.
Personally, I believe that in order to fund more people of color, you must take control of the check-writing authority, just as you need more female general practitioners if you want to fund more women. My biggest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to start their own businesses. We have a responsibility to promote them to the top positions in our largest companies in order to make our check writers more representative of our society as a whole.
This has a very clear economic rational and strategic advantage. There are amazing black entrepreneurs, Indian entrepreneurs, Chinese entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs and so on. OBVIOUSLY! When 90% of check writers are white, straight men, it’s clear that being different will give you an advantage. As I always say, being great as an investor means having an advantage, knowing someone or something that very few others know. It’s about swimming in alleys where others aren’t around. Being diverse in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear differentiator.
At Upfront, we believe in improving founders and entrepreneurs’ access to networking, professional development, and business opportunity, and that is exactly what Kobie wanted to do Valuethat he incubated in our offices. Huge hats to Kobie for the idea, energy, direction, evening hours, and the foresight and salesmanship it takes to get Guy to take the helm.
By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team had the systems and technology in place to seamlessly engage and engage the community – not just the users, but also some pilot corporate partners who also believed in and wanted to seize the mission and opportunity support this amazing database of talent. It was also important for Valence not only to connect users, but also to celebrate the achievements and highlight great black executives with high quality content and design.
As soon as Valence was founded in November 2019, the company had quickly demonstrated the demand from the community, not just from senior business leaders, but from so many young, talented professionals benefiting from the intergenerational networking that Valence supported so seamlessly. Since launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-mentoring sessions (AKA Boosts). This enables the invaluable network support that is vital to success and progress, even for the most talented founders and operators.
You can learn more about the importance of mentoring from Kobie Fuller, Valence Advisor James Lowry, and John Legend – yes, THE John Legend – in This video from the Upfront Summit 2020.
So 2020 went well for Valence, surprisingly even during a pandemic. And then, in May, the world was buoyed by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And the many black women and men before them whose lives had been taken by the police) .
Not only were there widespread citizen protests during those months, but so many industries, including ours, faced the fact that lip service, despite the best of intentions, was not enough. We all have had to take action to address the imbalance in access and literally put our money where our mouth is. Suddenly everything the Valence team had built was in the spotlight and there was even more energy in the business.
I always say that you can judge a startup’s future by how quickly it can be executed when it matters. Well, I can tell you that within weeks of the riot, Valence:
- Introduced the Valence finance network, where general practitioners from more than 30 of the top venture funds with assets under management of more than $ 60 billion came to Valence to connect black entrepreneurs directly with venture makers on the platform.
- Membership increase by more than 20%
- Hired a CEO Guy Primuswho was previously CEO of The Virtual Reality Company and COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He has been a leader at the intersection of media and technology for many years and we are grateful to work with him.
- Announced her Series A financing round.which Upfront attended and was directed by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great peer and contributor to other portfolio boards and we are delighted to have him come to Valence at this crucial time. We have worked closely with GGV for years and they have been a great way to help build such a network because of their investment in Chief (for women) and in nature The powerful (which helps families with people facing health problems).
From day one we have expected great things for Valence and with this wave of support at both the civic and industry levels we hope for significant improvements in access and dollars for black professionals. Please join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team on what they have built so far and what is to come.
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