Finding out how many Black founders have successfully raised venture capital, and which venture capital firms invested in their startups hasn’t been an easy task, historically. Venture capital data is often diceable by stage, say, or by startup type. But if you wanted to know how many Black founders a particular firm had invested into, that information has been hard to come by.
Until now, that is.
Earlier this year, Yonas Beshawred, Sefanit Tades, and James Norman, in association with the Transparent Collective, compiled what was heralded as “the most comprehensive list of U.S.-based venture-backed Black founders ever.” You can check out the data here.
It’s an extraordinary document, both for its usefulness and its brevity. This morning the list is just 283 names long, though it appears to be expanding over time.
The same group recently put together more data. Now, the public database includes details on which venture capital firms have invested in Black-founded startups. (The founder list came during Black History month, while the VC list was put together around Juneteenth; for more on how tech recently discovered Juneteenth, head here).
There are more VC firms that have invested in Black founders than there are Black founders who have raised money from VCs. This makes sense, as there is often more than one VC firm in any given round. But while the number of VCs detailed is encouraging at first glance, there’s nuance to the data.
TechCrunch spoke with Norman, the CEO of Pilot.ly, and a partner at the Transparent Collective, who told TechCrunch that he was initially “overwhelmed by the sheer number of investments made from 570 different firms,” but that “after one look, roughly 75% of the names had one Black founder investment.”
Even more, Norman told TechCrunch that after reviewing the data he “realized most of the firms on this list are likely follow-ons piling into single rounds of funding.” That most VC firms on the list of groups that put capital into a single Black-founded startup “highlights the lack of capital deployed to Black-founded startups in general” he continued.
Still, having the founder and VC data compiled is useful on its own. In Norman’s view, the dataset will allow other orgs to ingest and parse the information, hopefully yielding useful knowledge that was previously occluded.
Tades, another contributor to the Black founder and VC lists, told TechCrunch that response to the databases has been “overwhelmingly positive, with a number of people reaching out to provide support to expand the list and provide additional data points.” She also said that user “feedback is also driving our iterations on The Black Founder List database,” so there should be more to come from the effort. That’s exciting and welcome.
Silicon Valley loves to say things like “measure what matters.” Well, here’s a list of Black founders and the VCs who have cut one, two or more checks into their startups. It matters that both lists get longer, and we can now measure progress.
Author’s note: I tangled up some of the list’s original provenance, which has been corrected. My mistake!