Today, on Juneteenth, we recognize the efforts this nation still needs to put toward addressing structural racism and disparities, including in the world of tech. This week, HBCUvc, a nonprofit that aims to diversify the world of venture capital, launched a million-dollar fund. Founder Hadiyah Mujahid told me that the money would provide non-dilutive financing to overlooked founders, which they define as Black, Indigenous, and LatinX entrepreneurs, replacing the traditional angel round. But she also admitted that supporting founders weren’t the only primary goal. Instead, she explained to me the importance of what she defines as “teaching capital.”
Similar to how teaching hospitals give aspiring doctors a way to practice and learn their craft before formally entering the field, the fund wants to do that for some 230 aspiring investors they already work with, many stemming from historically Black colleges and universities. Notably, non-dilutive capital provides entrepreneurs with funding sans equity and a learning experience with lower stakes.
There are a lot of organizations right now that are starting funds [with] the primary goal of supporting founders. And that’s a goal of ours, but we’re hoping to have a ripple effect of training and really providing on-ramps for the next best-in-class investors … and in order to do that, they have to have a training vehicle.
While I’m not always a fan of rebranded names for capital, “teaching capital” is undoubtedly a compelling framing. Track record is everything in this industry, and underrepresented folks often don’t have the benefit or privilege of access on their side — from a dollar or deals perspective. Scout programs have long existed to fill this gap, but I think that there is still a lacking of intentionality around who feels empowered to write an investment memo, ask questions and be new.
This week, BLCK VC launched its scout program, and Google for Startups launched a non-dilutive financing instrument for Black founders, underscoring a growing focus in seeding diverse entrepreneurs. HBCUvc’s fund was announced nearly one year after it almost shut down due to a lack of capital. Mujahid explained how the unjust killing of George Floyd led to the most significant one-day donation in her nonprofit’s lifetime, which “changed the trajectory of programming.” She also said that much interest was a knee-jerk reaction, urging people to view this work as a long-term commitment.