Can MaC VC Help Solve Tech’s Whiteness Problem?

Can MaC VC Help Solve Tech’s Whiteness Problem?

MaC Venture Capital, one of the few majority Black-owned venture firms to focus on increasing the woefully slim number of non-white founders, closed its first $110 million fund.

The two-year-old firm came into being when Cross Culture Ventures, co-founded by Marlon Nichols and Troy Carter, merged with M Ventures. That united Nichols with former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty; former William Morris Agency talent agent Michael Palank and MACRO founder and CEO Charles D. King, who was the first Black partner at a major Hollywood talent agency.

Their two previous firms had funds in the $20 million range and wrote smaller checks. Now with a bigger vehicle, and more star power, MaC aims to start investing in seed-stage upstarts at the million dollar level – going up to two million in some cases – in return for a 10% stake.

"We haven't had to do anything different from what we were doing before," said Palank. "Now we just get larger stakes in the company and have a louder voice because we are on the board."

Just 2% of VC investment partners identify as Black or Latino and less than 10% of VC-funded companies are led by women or people of color in Southern California, according to PledgeLA.

MaC Venture Capital, which has already invested in 25 startups – including Pipe, Stoke, Goodfair, Finesse, PureStream and Sotesays 76% of its portfolio is run by Black, Latinx or female founders.

"Given our varied backgrounds and the different types of communities we're a part of, we're able to see opportunities in places many of our venture colleagues aren't able to see," said Nichols. "That's a superpower that allows us to get into some amazing deals pretty early before they start to become competitive."

MaC founders left to right: Marlon Nichols, Michael Palank, Charles D. King, and Adrian Fenty.Image courtesy of MaC VC

Like many industries, the notoriously clubby world of venture capital faced a reckoning when protests erupted after the killing of George Floyd last year. Investors tripped over themselves to preach the importance of diversity on Twitter or issue feel-good statements. Some firms, including Softbank and Andreessen Horowitz, even launched new funds to focus on diversity but that too seemed more symbolic.

Andreessen's Talent x Opportunity Fund launched with just $2.2 million in donations from partners, a drop in the bucket for a firm with $14 billion under management.

Of the $150 billion in venture funding hauled in by U.S startups last year, only $1 billion went to Black founders, according to Crunchbase.

"There were a lot of things said, but a lot of checks still need to be cashed," said Nichols.

Still, Nichols said the newfound awareness helped attract limited partners to the fund, which include Foot Locker, Inc., Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

"We have a few major corporations that are investors in our fund that invested in us because we're good at what we do, but also because they recognize that there is a disproportionate amount of funding that goes to people of color," Nichols said. "We've been pleasantly surprised by the attention and the follow through. But make no mistake, there's still a ton more work to do."

This story has been updated to include the fund's new total of $110 million.

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Ben Bergman

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.