Taj Eldridge, Include Ventures

LA Venture Podcast: Include Ventures Is a $250 Million Fund 1 with a Focus on Diverse Managers

On this week's episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Taj Eldridge talks about his newly-launched $250 million fund, Include Ventures aimed at Black and Brown founders and investors. The fund is part of VC Include, a platform that aims to accelerate investment into women, Black, Latinx, Indigenous and LGBTQ people.

"Some of the founders I talked to have said they don't want to get funding just because they're Black, said Taj. "And my thing is, well, I've seen the opposite side of it. I've seen not getting money because I'm Black. So, you know, right now, let's just move things forward."

Taj is passionate about reducing the wealth gap through Black and Brown ownership and continuing the work he does with Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), where he's the senior director for investment.

"Don't invest in clean tech just because it is a moralistic issue or its future-proofing," he said. "As we've seen in what's happening in Texas now with the grid and everything else, It's a public health issue. It's an economic issue. It's a social issue."

Key Takeaways:

  • This fund was founded by Taj, VC Include founder and CEO Bahiyah Robinson and Include advisor Keith Spears.
  • Include Ventures consists of two funds. One is a $125 million for Black and Brown-led fund managers with an emphasis on environmental social governance. The other is a $125 million for direct investments.
  • Taj sees fundraising as a science and art. The science focuses on data and information. The art focuses on building relationships.
  • Working at a wine-related startup clued him into clean tech because so many of the winemakers' wine product was impacted by climate.
  • Taj led UC Riverside's accelerator program and says he built it into the number four place in the nation for entrepreneurs.
  • Taj has stage 5 kidney disease, which puts him on dialysis for many hours in a week. He sees the disease as a blessing that's forced him to spend his time wisely and efficiently.
  • He says his strength comes from a saying in the Black community that focuses on finding a way — or making one.
"The reason I came to Los Angeles and fell in love with Los Angeles is because I can go one party down the street and get a Korean taco, and in the next grocery, I can get a falafel and then ...I can get, you know, some Jewish soup." —Taj Eldridge

Taj Eldridge began his career as a banker and economist with Wells Fargo Bank, UBS investment Bank and TRW Investments. Taj has also been a founder, board member and investor in companies such as ILTG Media, Boswell Official apparel, Voter, Xtopoly, Rookielook, iListen, KYC Hospitality, KIGT and ConCreates. He has degrees in poetry and literature (undergraduate) and geopolitical economics (graduate) from Texas A&M University-Commerce, Pepperdine University and Claremont Graduate University. Taj also studied abroad at The Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Santiago, Chile, The Universidad Do Porto in Porto, Portugal and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in China. For fun Taj is an avid audiobook bibliophile and a lover of music of all genres. (Bio from the LACI site).

dot.LA Sr. Podcast Producer & Editor Laurel Moglen contributed to this post.

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Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.