Protests shed light on why ‘black founders matter’ in startups, business

Widespread protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd have also put a spotlight on a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the boardroom, a venture capitalist told Yahoo Finance this week, who described the issue as an opportunity for change.

Angel investor Lorine Pendleton, the lead investor for the Rising American Fund with Portfolia, said that the current social upheaval is putting a needed spotlight on issues that pertain to class and wealth. That includes the need to tackle the dearth of minorities on Wall Street, Silicon Valley and in board rooms.

The problem is “really systemic,” Pendleton told Yahoo Finance’s “On the Move” in an interview, adding that the Black Lives Matter movement is “actually shedding a light on income and wealth disparity.”

“And so I say, black founders matter, and that’s…what we’re doing and investing in these best of class companies that are out there,” she added, speaking about her fund’s investment strategy.

TOPSHOT – Supporters of “Black Lives Matter” protest as they commemorate Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday in Hollywood, California on June 5, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Portfolia’s Rising America Fund focuses on investing in diverse companies — including those led by lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBTQ) — and startups that cater to those markets. “We’re a team of all women of color. All of us are world class investors. We’ve been investing for a number of years, some cases 20 plus years,” Pendleton added.

Portfolia, which focuses on opportunities in high-growth segments that are routinely undervalued and overlooked by traditional venture capital, also has the distinction of having people of color and immigrants comprise 40% of its lead investors, she told Yahoo Finance. The fund’s bets often go to

“So if you look at traditional [venture capital], that’s not the case over index with white males,” Pendleton said.

According to Kaufman Fellows data, Blacks are badly lagging among the executive ranks of startups, while more than 75% of all rounds raised go to all white founding teams. However, those same figures found that diverse founding and executive teams generate higher median realized multiples on acquisitions and IPOs than all White founding and executive teams.

For her part Pendleton touted Portfolia’s “great network” diverse startups and leaders, and investment partners who also have a similar pipeline.

She added that there are a lot of companies being started by diverse founders. “If you just look at just the lens through the gender lens, actually 75% of the companies that are launched every year by women are women of color,” Pendleton said.

Pamela Mitchell is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @pamelamitchell.

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