A16z’s Megan Holston-Alexander on Building Generational Wealth in the Black Community Through Tech

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
A16z’s Megan Holston-Alexander on Building Generational Wealth in the Black Community Through Tech
Photo Courtesy of Megan Holston-Alexander

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, A16z Partner Megan Holston-Alexander, who heads the company’s Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF), discusses how she uses her network to bring Black leaders to the tech space, as part of an effort to help build generational wealth in those communities.

One of the most influential venture firms around, A16z, also known as Andreessen Horowitz, has $33.3 billion in assets under management. Its Cultural Leadership Fund has two main missions: “connecting the world’s greatest cultural leaders” with the best technology companies and getting young African Americans interested in tech.

Holston-Alexander’s team focuses on bringing Black athletes, entertainers, musicians and C-level executives — that she labels as “cultural leaders” — into the tech industry. “And CLF gets to provide an on-ramp to that,” she said.

Black culture informs many of the trends in tech, Holston-Alexander said, but the industries that benefit from those trends don’t always reflect the communities that are on the vanguard—be it in music, fashion, ecommerce or elsewhere.

“And what we wanted to do is transform that and convert that cultural leadership, quite frankly, into ownership into these companies,” Holston-Alexander said. “It's really great that we're on the front line of the greatest dancing trends, etc. But how do we get ownership in the things that we're, quite frankly, helping build in the background?”

So far, A16z’s CLF has invested in 300 startups through its first two funds and recently announced Fund III.

Adding value to these investments can mean reaching out to cultural leaders for positions that A16z-funding are looking to fill, or working with Black executives, celebrities or innovators who are interested in a particular field in tech, and making introductions to the companies working in that space.

“We’ll go and tap into our network and say, ‘Who do we know that fits into [a startup’s] need?,” she said. The CLF works to make the introduction.

She added that the new fund has been selective with the limited partners (LPs) invested in it. They’re looking for Black LPs who are not only cultural leaders but who are also engaged and deeply interested in the areas the CLF has targeted.

“The age of the disengaged celebrity investor is over, right?” she said. “Very early on, it was okay to just kind of lend your name to things right to help kind of help things blow up.”

Now, the CLF wants to make sure funders are invested intellectually as well as financially.

“We'd rather bring somebody into the fund to maybe write a smaller check, but [who] is more willing to engage and pick up the phone when a founder calls.”

Holston-Alexander grew up in Montgomery, Alabama—one of the centers of the Civil Rights Movement, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. established his church and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.

“This concept of civil rights and equity has been in the water that I drink since I grew up as a child,” she said. “And even in 65 years, when you think about progress, when it comes to income and wealth, and generational things being passed down, there hasn’t been much change.”

Her background informs her work at the Cultural Leadership Fund, she said — in particular her focus on bringing young Black workers and entrepreneurs into the industry.

“We have seen technology really, in the last 20 years, become a source of wealth generation, and one of the clearest paths to wealth generation,” she said “And so we want to be sure that we're tapping into that, and getting people into this industry early.”

Engagement and Production Intern Jojo Macaluso contributed to this post.

Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through The House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1.The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2.The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3.Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out, but the most comprehensive list I’ve seen has come from reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in. “I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the Director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems similar across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!