Widgets Magazine

Alumni launch $5 million fund to support black entrepreneurship in tech

(ETHAN TEO/The Stanford Daily)

(ETHAN TEO/The Stanford Daily)

Seven black alumni announced the creation of the $5 million Black Angel Technology Investment Fund (BATIF), which aims to combat the lack of diverse leadership in Silicon Valley’s tech industry. BATIF will support startups with at least one black co-founder who either attends or has graduated from Stanford.

BATIF funds this specific group of people in order to encourage workspaces in which diversity can thrive. By many measures, diversity in tech remains elusive; one investigationfound that among leaders in tech companies based in the Silicon Valley, only 1.5 percent were black. Hispanics and Asians were not far ahead with 4.5 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively, while 82.5 percent of leadership positions were held by whites.

“The reason why … we’re also taking more of an aggressive approach around providing the resources around the people we decide to fund, is that this problem is big,” said Myisha Patterson-Gatson ’03, one of BATIF’s founders.

BATIF’s conceptualization began in the summer of 2015 at a Stanford Black Alumni Association summit in Atlanta. Managing partners Obi Ugwonali ’94, Marc Mitchell ’99 and Kwame Anku ’94 participated in a panel discussion about black involvement in Silicon Valley technology that made them realize this involvement was too small.

“We actually went up to the stage and announced, ‘look, we’re going to be starting a technology fund, is anybody interested?’” Ugwonali said. “Immediately, over 80 people responded and said yes. At that point, we realized that there was an interest in this kind of fund.”

The three panel participants teamed up with four other black Stanford alums — Gatson, Ronald Berry ’94, Dana Weeks Ugwonali ’94 and Ayanna Wooten-Days ’99 — to immediately begin establishing the fund, spurred by the belief that lack of diversity limits innovation.

“We tend to work with people that we know, that we’re comfortable with and that we’ve seen results from,” Ugwonali said. “We want to prove that [that model] may also be missing a lot of other technological juggernauts by only looking at technological problems from the perspective of a few groups of people.”

In an attempt to improve the success rate of startups led by black entrepreneurs, the BATIF founders will draw on their personal experiences to offer mentorship to companies they intend to fund.

The support and positive feedback that BATIF has received from its start has made its leaders confident of their project.

Two other investment funds with a similar intent to increase diversity, Groundwork and 500 Startups, launched the same week as BATIF. Anku believes that this is no coincidence.

“It was really powerful, that literally three funds dedicated specifically to black tech entrepreneurs were all announced this week,” Anku said. “I think it also signals a movement, and a shift. There’s been a lot of talk and frustration about the lack of diversity in the Silicon Valley.”

BATIF intends to collaborate rather than compete with these funds.

“It strengthens us to be connected to other funds that are doing this work,” Gatson said. “We can grow a broader network of folks in the technology and innovation economy that are committed to solving this problem.”

Contact Ethan Teo at ethanteo99 ‘at’ gmail.com and Kathleen Cui at kathleencui9 ‘at’ gmail.com.