Black Founders Matter presses VCs to pledge commitment to diversity

'This is about changing the power dynamics in venture capital'

As a child, Marceau Michel always asked for a quarter.

He knew if he kept asking for a quarter, he’d have a dollar one day. Then he’d be well on his way to having two — a slow but purposeful build toward amassing his own little fortune.

Today, at the helm of the Black Founders Matter venture fund, Michel has kept that mentality. The fund announced today the formation of the 25 by 25 Pledge, which encourages venture capitalists to commit to investing a quarter of their funds into BIPOC women founders by the year 2025. The pledge also requires VC firms to have 25% of their staff be BIPOC women, believing the increase in diversity behind the scenes will help pivot more deal flow into marginalized communities.

“This is about changing the power dynamics in venture capital,” Michel told TechCrunch. “You have to start at who is left behind and bring them to the starting line.”

Michel was inspired to start the pledge after realizing his own investments leaned toward Black male founders. That led him to focus on investing in Black women, and added five companies to round out his portfolio of 10. His new initiative hopes to encourage VCs to prioritize investing with diversity in mind as a way to improve the industry’s harrowing fundraising stats.

White women receive a marginal portion of total venture capital funding, but the amounts minority women get are far more diminutive. Last year, women raised just 2% of the record $330 billion in venture capital. Of that 2%, less than 0.50% went to Black women, approximately 0.51% went to Latina founders, an estimated 0.71% went to Asian women, and a mere 0.004% went to Indigenous founders, according to Crunchbase data.

“If a fund does not want to do this pledge … the question is why.” Marceau Michel, founder of Black Founders Matter

“If more funds said, ‘I only want to see deals led by women,’ then we’d see more women being invested in,” Michel said. “Black, Indigenous and women of color make up most of the women on Earth. Asking for 25% [of investment volume] is not too much. I just see it as the start.”

The pledge is available on the Black Founders Matter website for those wanting to sign.

The impact of a pledge

The 25 by 25 Pledge has a precedent: the 15 Percent Pledge, launched in 2020 by fashion designer Aurora James.

The 15 Percent Pledge encourages retailers to dedicate at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. So far, it has received commitments from 28 retailers, including Sephora and Nordstrom. The pledge, now a nonprofit, also created a database of 1,200 Black companies to help companies find and build relationships with Black founders. To date, the 15 Percent Pledge says it helped Black-owned businesses generate $10 billion in revenue and aims to beget $1.4 trillion in wealth for Black entrepreneurs by 2030.