“I must say it was a good day.”
Today I am very crazy. Really, really. Yeah, Valence announced> $ 5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That’s a big deal, but I will do it. But Kamala Harris has been chosen as the Democratic Vice President candidate. That means she will be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female Vice President of color, and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, get ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We may have to fight for it after the votes go our way but get ready for battle.
So let’s get it.
Value. This is a company with a mission to create better access and more funding for Black entrepreneurs and executives. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and the brainchild of my partner, Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital, click on those links and follow them on Twitter.
So what exactly is Valence and why is it important?
18 months ago, my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to build a solution to a problem he faces frequently: being one of the few Black partners at a VC firm (an estimated 3% of GP in the joint venture is Black vs. 14% of the US population), he is always asked warmly to introduce black professionals, black VCs, and talented black executives and entrepreneurs.
Venture firms want to meet talented Black founders but don’t know where to start looking for them. And black business people want to reach decision makers but not always have easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally receive when I propose that founders should “introduce VCs” is that this could reinforce the existing racial imbalance. ways to provide easier access to white professionals than to people of color.
The apparent imbalance that exists in access and the network has resulted in a technology industry where it is estimated that only 1% of the venture dollar goes to the Black founders and only 3% of the workforce is Blacks and a country where black individuals hold a proportionally low amount of wealth – just 3%. As Kobie says, he doesn’t have a “magic database” of great black talent, so he started to build a solution not only for himself but also for the community.
Personally, I believe that to sponsor more people of color, you need to put the right to write checks in their hands in the same way that if you want to see more sponsored women, you need more female general practitioners. My biggest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to start their own companies. We have a responsibility to help put them first in our biggest companies to make our checkwriters more representative of our society at large.
There is a very clear strategic advantage and economic rationale in doing so. There are great black entrepreneurs, Indian businessmen, Chinese businessmen, female entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs, etc. SURE! If 90% of the people writing a check are white and frank, then it is clear that if you are different you will have an advantage. As I always say, being a good investor is about having “advantages” and advantages means knowing someone or something that very few others know. It is about swimming in lanes where the others are not. The diversity in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear difference.
At Upfront, we believe in improving founders and entrepreneurs’ access to networking, career growth and economic opportunities, and that’s what Kobie set out to do. Valence, which he cherished in our office. Kobie tucks her hat heavily on the ideas, energy, direction, evening hours and foresight and sales skills needed to bring Guy to the helm.
By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team was building the systems and technologies needed to seamlessly engage and engage the community – not only users but also some corporate partners. points, who also believe in mission and opportunity and who want to take advantage of and support this amazing talent database. It is important for Valence not only to connect users but also to celebrate the successes and attract the attention of great black leaders through high quality content and design.
As soon as Valence launched in November 2019, the business quickly received demand from the community, not only from senior business leaders but also from a lot of young, talented professionals who could benefit from the intergenerational network that Valence has continued to support. Since its launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-advisory sessions (AKA Boosts) – allowing the invaluable type of network support crucial to success and advancement for even the brightest. the most talented set up and operator.
You can hear 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 Prepaid 2020 Summit.
So things went well for Valence in 2020, surprisingly even during a pandemic. And then in May, the world was shaken by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And many black women and men before them were caught by the police). take his life.)
During these months, not only have we seen widespread protests by citizens, but also many industries, including ourselves, have faced the speculation that despite the best of intentions, lip service is also not enough. We all need to take action to address access imbalances, and literally put our money in our mouths. Suddenly, everything the Valence team has been building noticed, and there was even more energy surrounding the business.
I’ve always said that you can judge a startup’s future based on how fast they can execute when it’s worth. I can tell you that within a few weeks of civil unrest, Valence:
- Introduced Value sponsorship networkwhere GPs from more than 30 top venture funds representing more than $ 60 billion in managed assets have joined Valence with the goal of linking black entrepreneurs on the platform directly with decision makers risky.
- Increase the number of members by more than 20%
- Hired an executive, Guy Primus, who was previously the CEO of Virtual Reality Company as well as COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He’s been a leader at the intersection of media and technology for many years and we are grateful to partner with him.
- Publication of them Series A sponsorship round, to which Upfront has joined and is led by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great colleague and collaborator on other portfolio boards and we are delighted that he joins Valence at this pivotal moment. We have worked closely with GGVs for many years and they are well suited to help build a network like this thanks to their investment in Directors (for women) and The majesty (helping families with someone with health problems).
Since day one, we have been anticipating great things for Valence, and with this basic support at the citizen level as well as the industry level we hope to see meaningful improvements in access rights. Access and dollars for Black professionals. Join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team for what they’ve built so far and what’s to come.