The venture capital ecosystem is starkly homogeneous.

In 2018, just 3% of VC partners in the US were Black, while 80% were white, according to the NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey, a joint study designed to uncover the state of diversity and inclusion (D&I) across the venture industry.

For years, venture capitalists have faced mounting pressure to diversify their portfolio companies and investment teams with people of color and women. Last year, the conversation reemerged as protests erupted across the US in response to the police killings of several Black Americans. The venture industry, forced to reckon with its own overwhelming lack of diversity, saw an outpouring of support, with some founders vowing to reduce racial disparities in the industry.

This year, our list of Black founders and investors aims to celebrate and highlight leaders who are making a big impact. The list features both familiar names and the next generation of innovators who are working to shape their communities and the world at large.

For the people on this list, we considered:
  • The size and potential growth trajectory of their organization
  • How relevant and timely their contributions are
  • Their activism and advocacy for the Black community

The founders
From first-time founders to serial entrepreneurs, these innovators are building organizations from the ground up. The founders on this list are reimagining solutions to everyday challenges, working toward an equitable future and following their passions day in and day out. 

The investors
Although mostly comprised of VCs, this list also features leaders who have created communities to empower other Black entrepreneurs through capital and educational support. We have also included spotlights on several VC firms with a stated mission to fund diverse founders. 

Where possible, we’ve included links to each person’s Twitter page. Additionally, some companies are linked to PitchBook profiles, where you can further dive into funding details, other investors and more. Among the wide range of information available in PitchBook, users can search our database to find investors with active investments and a stated preference in minority and women-owned businesses.

Black founders in education tech

These education technology (edtech) companies have developed software that enhances teaching practices and improves learning outcomes.
 

Dr. Johnetta MacCalla
Co-founder and CEO of Zyrobotics, a creator of inclusive, educational technologies for the diverse needs of children with differing abilities.
@Zyrobotics

Chris Bennett
Co-founder and CEO of Wonderschool, a network of modern early education programs to ensure all families have access to high-quality early childhood care.
@wonderschools

Angel Rich
Founder of WealthyLife and CreditRich, an app that teaches young people about credit management, personal finance and entrepreneurship through gaming.
@BlkTechMatters

Black founders in fintech and blockchain

These financial technology (fintech) companies use internet, blockchain and software technologies, as well as algorithms, to offer or facilitate financial services traditionally offered by banks.

Sheena Allen
Founder and CEO of CapWay, a mobile banking and fintech company with the mission to restore trust and provide a fair opportunity to learn and grow wealth for all. 
@SheenaAllenApps

Joe Beard
Co-founder of CollateralEdge, a fintech platform that provides banks with innovative, automated solutions to bolster the credit profile of loans and allow greater underwriting flexibility.
@joebeard214

Tavonia Evans
Founder of Guapcoin, a blockchain company and cryptocurrency created to amplify the economic voice of the Black community.  
@cryptodeeva

Jerry Nemorin
Founder of LendStreet, a lending platform designed to help people get out of debt, rebuild their credit and get a fresh start.
@twitterhandle

Boris Moyston
Co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech and fintech startup Fundr, a platform designed to automate, diversify and democratize seed funding. 
@borismoyston

David Potter
Co-founder of CURU, a SaaS lead recovery platform that enables lenders and marketplaces to recover lost and rejected loan opportunities by boosting applicant eligibility in areas such as credit score and debt-to-income ratio.
@CuruCredit

Black founders in media and entertainment

These founders are leveraging various mediums to contribute to and innovate entertainment. 
 

Andre Jones
Co-founder of The Tenth Magazine, a bi-annual publication that documents the history, culture, ideas and aesthetics of the Black LGBTQ community. 
@thetenthzine

Morgan DeBaun
Founder of Blavity, a media platform focused on serving the multifaceted lives of Black millennials.
@MorganDeBaun

Stacy Spikes
Founder of PreShow and Movie, a mobile platform where customers can watch branded content in exchange for seeing first run movies in theaters for free.

Black founders in healthtech

These health technology (healthtech) companies provide mobility and other information technologies to improve healthcare delivery while decreasing costs.
 

Ade Adesanya
Co-founder of Moving Analytics, a digital cardiac rehabilitation and prevention program, delivered via mobile platform and health coaching.
@AdesStartups

Crystal Evuleocha
Founder of Kiira Health, a telehealth platform for collegiate women focused on addressing women’s health inequities.
@crystola_belle

Derrick Miles
Founder and CEO of CourMed, an enterprise software provider that innovates delivery services from healthcare providers to patients. 
@CourMed

Kevin Dedner
Founder and CEO of Hurdle, a mental health company that puts culture first in its approach to delivering therapy and self-care support.
@kdedner

Nathalie Walton
Founder of Expectful, a subscription platform that makes meditation easy for expectant and new mothers, in an effort to tackle the wellbeing crisis facing the 21 million women in the US on their motherhood journeys.
@nathaliegwalton

Bea Arthur
Founder of The Difference, an on-demand therapy technology that uses AI to connect users with a therapist via Alexa.
@BeaArthurLMHC

Black founders in foodtech

These food technology (foodtech) companies are developing products and services intended to improve consumers’ food selection, purchasing and consumption experiences.
 

Zuleyka Strasner
Founder of Zero Grocery, a plastic-free online store that delivers fresh, high quality groceries and everyday goods at wholesale prices, utilizing reusable glass jars to reduce waste.
@zuleykastrasner

Riana Lynn
Founder of Journey Foods, a SaaS and AI-powered platform intended to help food businesses develop nutritious food products. 
@rianalynn

Jasmine Crowe
Founder of GOODR, a platform created to provide a secure ledger that tracks an organization’s surplus food from pickup to donation, delivering real-time social and environmental impact reporting analytics.
@jasminecrowe

Black founders in beauty and cosmetics

These companies exemplify the future of beauty because they are incorporating digital technologies into their products and services, providing bespoke products that target a niche group or are manufacturing and marketing their products as natural, clean and/or organic.
 

Darren Tenkorang
Founder of Trim-it, the first app-powered mobile barbershop, delivering the highest quality haircuts straight to your doorstep in a high-tech barbershop in a van.
@Trimit_app

Tracey Pickett
Founder of Hairbrella, a rainwear company that combines fashion and function to keep hair dry and protected from the elements.
@traceypickett__

Richelieu Dennis
Founder of SheaMoisture (Sundial Brands) and owner of Essence, who recently launched the New Voices Fund, a $100 million fund to support women of color entrepreneurs.
@NewVoicesFamily

Courtney Caldwell
Co-founder of ShearShare, a B2B app that matches licensed beauty professionals to unused salon space.
@ShearShareCOO

Cashmere Nicole
Founder of Beauty Bakerie, a cosmetics line that offers long-lasting vegan and paraben-free makeup.
@beautybakerie

Kristen Jones Miller
Co-founder and CEO of Mented Cosmetics, an online cosmetic store that sells nude lipsticks and more for women of color.
@MentedCosmetics

Black founders in travel and leisure

The travel industry took a hit in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic caused bookings to plummet. Hope for a 2021 travel season still exists and these founders are using technology to facilitate better travel experiences.  
 

Ama Marfo
Co-founder of Airfordable, alongside Emmanuel Buah. The duo created Airfordable to democratize travel in a budget-friendly way through a payment plan system with zero interest.
@AmaMarfo

Joah Spearman
Founder of Localeur, which provides access to a global community of local insiders and authentic recommendations on where to eat and drink in over 180+ cities, as well as world travel tips, road trip guides and personalized itineraries.
@joahspearman

Jonathan Hayes
Founder and CEO of Rewardstock, a platform that offers information on credit cards for travelers to earn, track and use reward points to book trips. The company was acquired by Experian in November 2020.
@RewardStock

Black founders in business and productivity software

From streamlining internal teamwork to facilitating e-commerce sales, these founders are using technology to increase business productivity. 
 

Ablorde Ashigbi
Founder of 4Degrees, a SaaS platform that provides relationship building recommendations and intelligent guidance on expanding team networks.
@Ablordesays

Jordan Walker
Founder of Yac, an app designed to cut down on meetings and calls with voice messages, searchable transcriptions and asynchronous screen sharing.
@jordanlwalker

Yaw Aning
Co-founder and CEO of Malomo, a shipment tracking and customer marketing platform for e-commerce brands that helps its users generate more revenue and increase customer loyalty.
@YawA

Diishan Imira
Founder and CEO of Mayvenn, an online platform designed to provide quality hair products to hairstylists, so that they can sell directly to their clients without the burden of upfront costs.
@DiishanImira

Karissma Yve
Co-founder of Gildform, an app that connects every element of the jewelry manufacturing supply chain—transforming the way fashion brand owners run their businesses.
@karissmayve

 

Black founders in talent and job acquisition

These companies are helping both job seekers and hiring organizations find the best job match through software and mobile applications.
 

Ruben Harris
Co-founder and CEO of Career Karma, an app created to help job training programs find qualified applicants, as well as match people with coding bootcamps to support them throughout their careers.
@rubenharris

Zack Smith
Founder of Jobble, a mobile and web marketplace that connects businesses to people looking for gig economy and hourly work.
@JobblerZack

Sky Kelley
Founder of Avisare, a centralized network for all businesses to discover new contract opportunities, post their own and bid on all opportunities using one universal profile.
@SkyKelley1

Black founders of nonprofits

While not directly in the venture capital ecosystem, these founders started nonprofits and created communities aimed at educating and opening doors for future BIPOC leaders.
 

Kimberly Bryant
Founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit that teaches computer programming and tech skills to girls and young women from underrepresented communities. 
@6Gems

Makinde Adeagbo
Founder of /dev/color, a nonprofit community for Black software engineers to help each other grow into industry leaders. 
@makinde

Laura Weidman Powers
Co-founder and CEO of Code2040, a nonprofit aimed at helping underrepresented minorities achieve educational and entrepreneurial success. 
@laurawp

Black investors

These investors are champions for minority voices in the private markets and are constantly working toward creating a more equitable future for entrepreneurs and investors alike. 

Henri Pierre-Jacques
Co-founder and managing partner of Harlem Capital Partners. He, alongside Jarred Tingle, built the venture firm with the mission to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in diverse founders.
@hpierrejacques


About Harlem Capital Partners 
Founded in 2015, Harlem Capital Partners is an early-stage venture firm based in New York. The firm prefers to invest in early-stage companies and reserves capital for investments in minority and women founders in the United States.

The firm has done its own research and compiled a list of 200 Black and Latinx venture capitalists to analyze occurrences and trends to understand minority involvement in the VC space.

See Harlem Capital Partners investment history
 

Abyah Nycole Wynn
Co-founder and managing director at Twenty65 Fund, a $10 million fund focused exclusively on supporting female and minority-led founders.
@abyahw

Erik Moore
Founder and managing director of Base Ventures, a seed-stage VC firm with the idea to fund disruptive ideas and champion nontraditional thinkers. 
@basevc

Taj Ahmad Eldridge
Senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and founder of Fund Humanity, a nonprofit impact-relief fund.
@Econoahmad

Arian Simone
Angel investor and founding partner of the Fearless Fund, which recently launched a $25 million fund to invest exclusively in early-stage businesses run by women of color.
@ArianSimone


About Fearless Fund 
Fearless Fund invests in women of color led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level or Series A financing. Its mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth-aggressive companies. Fearless Fund is built by women of color for women of color.

See the Fearless Fund’s investment history

 

Ade Olonoh
A seasoned entrepreneur and founder of Formstack and Formspring, Olonoh is also a Venture Partner at Starting Line.
@adeolonoh

Angela Benton
Founder of NewME, a technology accelerator created to accelerate, educate and empower underrepresented tech entrepreneurs around the world and founder of Streamlytics, a platform designed to measure what content users are watching and listening to across streaming platforms .
@ABenton

Karim Webb
Entrepreneurial activist, founder and CEO of 4thMVMT, which focuses on communities impacted by institutional racism and invests in entrepreneurs who lack access to capital, operational resources and networks to start and grow a business.
@KarimWebb

Arlan Hamilton 
Founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, a VC firm that invests in women, people of color and LGBT founders.
@ArlanWasHere


About Backstage Capital  
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton founded Backstage Capital from the ground up. Based in Los Angeles, California, the fund is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBTQ.

See Backstage Capital’s investment history

 

Sydney Sykes
LSVP scout investor and co-founder of BLCK VC, a nonprofit that aims to support and expand Black representation in venture.
@Syd_Lykes

Mercedes Bent
Early-stage consumer investor at Lightspeed Venture Partners, where she focuses on edtech, fintech and consumer products.
@mercebent

Marlon Nichols
Co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, which merged with seed fund M Ventures in 2019 to form MaC Ventures. Nichols is currently a managing partner for MaC VC.
@MarlonCNichols

 

See more on diversity in VC

From talk to action: Investors weigh in on ways to increase diversity in VC
Watch this panel discussion: Let’s talk about race: The investor’s role in addressing inequality and diversity

Female founders and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Download this in-depth report: All In: Female Founders and CEOs in the US VC Ecosystem

LGBTQ+ founders and investors
Read our blog: 25 LGBTQ+ founders, entrepreneurs and VCs you should know
 

Learn more about PitchBook’s data coverage

Don’t forget PitchBook tracks investors, professionals, companies and deals across the private market ecosystem.

 

Note: All images were sourced from LinkedIn and Google. PitchBook does not own the rights to any of the images used in this post. If you'd like to have a photo removed, please contact us and we'd be happy to do so.

Related content