On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Concrete Rose Capital Partner Will Bumpus discusses how the firm hopes to support a virtuous cycle of wealth and opportunity for underrepresented communities of color.
Based in Menlo Park, California, Concrete Rose invests in early-stage companies, focusing primarily on helping people of color close the wealth and opportunity gap. It launched a $25 million fund in 2020 and is currently writing $1 million to $2 million checks out of its second fund to lead seed-stage funding rounds. One of the startups in Concrete Rose’s first fund, Esusu, a fintech company that provides rent reporting and credit-building services to minority groups, reached unicorn status in January.
“Our vision and mission [are] ‘how do we create a virtuous cycle of wealth and opportunity for underrepresented communities of color?’” Bumpus said. “One of the biggest forms of wealth creation that we think is going to happen, at least in the U.S., is through tech and entrepreneurship.”
Bumpus, who’s based in Venice, said Concrete Rose’s investment strategy focuses on three investing pillars: Black and Latino founders, companies that meet the needs of underrepresented communities and coaching founders on building diversity and inclusion within their companies.
“In terms of our portfolio—it might be because of the focus areas—but 80% of the companies we invest in are outside of the Bay Area,” Bumpus said. “We want to find founders and companies that are not just meeting the needs of the Bay Area. We want to find ones that are addressing a larger pool.”
Bumpus said Concrete Rose’s partners tend to follow their own interests within the firm. He focuses on startups in the sustainability and food tech spaces. He’s also focused on developing the Concrete Rose Talent Network, which forges relationships with other VCs and founders within the tech community who are trying to create diverse teams and inclusive company cultures.
“The social capital is what's going to make these companies a success,” Bumpus said. “When you have people in your corner who are giving you advice, giving you customer introductions, who have your company top of mind when they're thinking on different boards and things like that—it makes a difference.”
Concrete Rose launched its community foundation at the same time as its first fund. Bumpus said that while the fund is set up to drive returns, the foundation is intended to drive impact. General partners pledge 50% of their carry to the foundation, which makes grants to nonprofits focused on helping minority candidates break into STEM fields.
“So we very much believe that the foundation arm is a way where we're going to either: One, place a candidate at a company, who then can go on to start their own company or do something amazing,” he said. “Or what we're going to do is have some of our founders wanting to go support and mentor some of the people within the foundation.”
Bumpus, the son of award-winning journalist Gayle King, said he was drawn to a mission-driven company like Concrete Rose after growing up in predominantly white spaces.
“It was always this idea of ‘How do you make sure that you don't just get sucked into that environment but you're constantly giving back to the communities that you came from, or who look like you, who are going through the same things as you’,” he added.
dot.LA editorial intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.