Valence Announces Funding Network to Connect Black Founders
Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. 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. Follow him on Twitter.
Valence, a tech platform and professional network launched last year that connects Black founders, announced its inaugural funding network Thursday. The list includes investors at top firms including Sequoia Capital, Accel and Upfront Ventures.
"For years, Black entrepreneurs have been told that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy, but at the same time most haven't had access to the top networks, the warm introductions, and the mentorship that underpin lasting success in tech. Valence is upending this completely by bringing the top VCs to compete for the best Black entrepreneurs." said Valence co-founder and general partner at Upfront Ventures, Kobie Fuller. "We want to even the playing field with the goal of exponentially growing the number of Black-owned startups that get funded."
Only 4% of VC employees are black, according to a 2018 survey by the National Venture Capital Association, an industry trade group. Just 10% of VC-backed companies in Los Angeles are run by a person of color or a woman, according to PledgeLA.
However, the true numbers are likely much lower because those survey – like all others examining diversity — are self-reported.
Valence also announced that is has appointed tech and entertainment veteran Guy Primus as chief executive officer.
"Facilitating success in the innovation economy is key to Valence's mission. By creating the Valence Funding Network, we are eliminating one of the most formidable structural obstacles to success—the access to venture investors." said Primus.
Here are the inaugural funding members:
- 645 Ventures
- Nnamdi Okike
- Rich Wong
- Ade Ajao
- Elliott Robinson
- Capital G
- Gene Frantz
- Collab Capital
- Jewel Burks
- Concrete Rose
- Sean Mendy
- Defy Partners
- Nabeel Hyatt
- Techsquare Labs
- Neil Sequiera
- Equal Ventures
- Richard Kerby
- First Round
- Josh Kopelman
- Brian O'Malley
- Brad Feld
- General Catalyst
- Peter Boyce
- Hans Tung
- Sarah Guo
- Jordan Fudge
- Spark Capital
- Rebecca Kaden
- High Alpha
- Scott Dorsey
- Mercedes Bent
- Deena Shakir
- Paige Craig
- Charles Hudson
- Annie Kadavy
- Jess Lee
- Sinai Ventures
- Paul Judge
- Union Square
- Kobie Fuller
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On this week's episode of LA Venture, hear from Marcos Gonzalez, the managing partner at Vamos Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund which invests in Latino and diverse founders. Over half of L.A. County is Latino. A relatively new fund, investments are in the range of $100,000 to $500,000. Seems like a great time to be investing in this community! And, Vamos is hiring...
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El Segundo-based telemedicine technology provider Cloudbreak Health and Florida-based UpHealth Holdings, a digital healthcare provider, announced they will combine and go public via a SPAC in a deal that values the combined companies at $1.35 billion.
Named UpHealth, Inc., the new company aims to streamline online health care by becoming a single provider of four different services: telehealth, teletherapy, a health care appointment and management system and an online pharmacy.
UpHealth runs healthcare platform Thrasys Inc. and MedQuest Pharmacy, along with two other behavioral health companies. The merger with Cloudbreak, which under the pandemic expanded their interpretation services to remote medicine, will give the new company a foothold in almost 2,000 hospitals.
"What we wanted to do was form a business that could really be a digital infrastructure for health care across the continuum of care, right from home to hospital," said Jamey Edwards, the co-founder and CEO of Cloudbreak. Under the agreement, he will become the company's chief operating officer.
GigCapital2 expects the merger transaction to close at the start of Q1 2021. UpHealth will be publicly traded under the ticker "UPH" on the New York Stock Exchange. UpHealth's integrated care management platform serves over 5 million people, and is expected to reach 40 million over the next three years, according to the company.
Jamey Edwards, co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak
COVID-19 caused a meteoric growth in the use of telehealth services. In February, 0.1% of Medicare primary visits were provided through telehealth. In April, that number was nearly 44%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Key stakeholders have seen and responded well to the benefits that telemedicine can bring, but they need a more comprehensive, integrated solution," said Al Gatmaitan, who has been named the co-chief executive officer of UpHealth. "This is what UpHealth focuses on, the adoption of digital health solutions well beyond the pandemic crisis."
The deal with the blank check company GigCapital2 gives the two digital health companies access to a wider network. UpHealth and its family of companies operate in 10 countries and their pharmacy has 13,000 e-prescribers in the U.S.
UpHealth will use the Cloudbreak platform as part of their global telehealth services to provide patients with round-the-clock care under a variety of specialties, including telepsychiatry and tele-urology. UpHealth also has contracts internationally, to provide country-wide care in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Edwards joined Cloudbreak in 2008 when it went from public to private. It has raised $35 million in venture funds, most recently in the first quarter of this year scoring $10 million from Columbia Partners Private Capital.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story identified Jamey Edwards as executive director of Cloudbreak, he is its CEO.
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Ryan Edwards, the co-founder of Happier Camper, said he's asked all the time if his company leans on influencer marketing to promote their vintage-style trailers beloved by millennials.
With a waitlist six months out and demand growing from hotel-weary travelers, he said it isn't a priority yet.
"We almost don't need to," said Edwards.
That's because the $25,000 to $50,000 custom trailers have been a hit with a loyal fan base, and rising demand during the pandemic has only helped. Orders for compact trailers at the lower price end, including Happier Camper's 75-square-foot camper, are growing as newbie road trippers look for COVID-safe travels.