It’s no secret that the venture capital world has a diversity problem. The numbers are striking: 76% of VC partners are white men. As of 2021, women accounted for just 5% of partners in VC firms, while 1% of partners identified themselves as Black and even fewer as Latino.
And the problem isn’t just who’s in the room. It’s who’s getting funding, too. Although many prominent venture capital firms publicly pledged to diversify the founders in their portfolios in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd shined a national spotlight on racism in the U.S., most venture capital funding is still flowing to white, male founder teams (Asian founders took in the next most cash, but they’re still getting much less).
The overall amount of cash given to companies with women and minority founders rose in 2021, but their overall portion of the funds doled out remained strikingly small. Companies founded solely by women scored just 2% of VC funding. Meanwhile, Black founders got just 1.4% of venture funding (Black women in particular received a mere 0.27% of all venture dollars) and U.S.-based Latino founders also received 2%
This isn’t because white men are more interested in starting their own companies. It tends to be an issue of access.
“There is no pipeline problem,” Janine Sickmeyer, a founding partner in Overlooked Ventures, told us. “The people are there. The opportunities are there.”
Perhaps this is unsurprising given that the system is largely set up to benefit those who already have money and connections. But in failing to fund businesses led by women and founders who belong to minority groups, VCs aren’t just perpetuating inequality, they’re leaving money on the table.
A Boston Consulting Group study from 2018, for example, found that women-led startups generated 151% more in revenue than male-run ones, and a 2020 Kauffman Fellows report concluded that startups with diverse founder teams had a 30% better financial performance than those without.
“We need to change the narrative,” Sickmeyer said. “It’s not charity to invest in overlooked and underrepresented founders. It’s good business.”
Here are 23 VCs who are looking to do just that by funding startups helmed by women, Black, Latin, LGBTQ and other historically underrepresented founders both to level the playing field and to make investments in businesses that are poised to become the next big thing.
Angeles Investors’ mission is to find and fund “the most promising Hispanic and Latinx ventures.” The firm holds regular pitch night events to find founders to invest in. It also provides internship opportunities to diverse professionals and MBA students, to help develop Latinx professionals in venture capital.
Backstage Capital invests in scalable startups led by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ founders in all industries. It boasts investments in over 180 companies over the past five years. Most investments are at the pre-seed through Series A stage in U.S.-based companies. The majority of the firm’s investments are $100,000.
3. BBG Ventures
Started by insiders at AOL, BBG Ventures, which stands for “Built by Girls,” leads investment in early-stage, female-founded companies. It’s third fund, a $50 million fund unveiled in March 2021, invests in both B2B and B2C consumer tech companies. Areas of focus include health and wellbeing, climate friendly products and platforms, future of work and education, and overlooked and emerging consumers. Typical checks range from $500,000 to $1 million.
EchoVC is on a mission to become “the Sequoia Capital for underestimated founders and markets.” The sector agnostic firm invests in women and underrepresented founders, particularly of African descent globally, from seed stage through Series B. Companies must have at least a minimum viable product out on the market to be considered for investment.
Elevate Capital’s Capital Fund II invests nationally in scalable technology and health care startups founded by underrepresented minority founders, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and veterans. It invests between $100,000 and $1 million in the pre-seed through Series A stages. It also has smaller funds that invest in underrepresented founders based in Oregon.
Ganas Ventures invests in pre-seed and seed Web2 and Web3 community-driven startups in the U.S. and Latin America. Run by solo GP Lolita Taub, the firm writes $100,000 checks and plans to use its first fund to invest in 75 companies.
Harlem Capital’s goal is to invest in 1,000 diverse founders over 20 years. In March 2021, it closed its second fund at $134 million. The fund makes early seed stage investments in companies that are post-product and is committed to backing minority and women founders. There is a focus on enterprise and consumer tech, but the fund remains industry agnostic. In order to allow the founders the fund invests in to benefit from one another’s success, it permits them to split 1% of the fund’s carry.
Impact America Fund invests in tech-driven companies that “create new frameworks of ownership and opportunity within marginalized communities.” The fund favors entrepreneurs with direct knowledge of these communities rather than “an outsider’s assumptions, and primarily invests from seed to Series B. It makes investments between $250,000 and $3 million.
Kapor Capital invests in pre-seed and seed rounds for technology-driven companies that are “committed to closing gaps of access, opportunity or outcome for low income communities and/or communities of color” in the U.S. The firm believes that founder teams should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and 59% of the companies the firm has invested in have a founder who identifies as a woman or an underrepresented person of color. Portfolio companies must commit to reporting on social impact and diversity accomplishments in their updates to investors.
Loud Capital is an early stage VC firm looking to back diverse founders with impactful companies. Its Pride Fund is a $10 million fund specifically aimed at supporting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs or companies that serve that community.
Backed by Peak6 investments, New Money Ventures is a $20 million fund led by an entrepreneur with two successful exits under her belt. The fund prioritizes investments in women-led and women-founded firms. It invests in pre-launch and early stage high-growth consumer businesses.
12. One Way VC
One Way VC backs “exceptional immigrant founders.” The firm is currently focused on companies based in the U.S. and Canada where at least one key founder is an immigrant. The firm typically writes checks between $500,000 and $1.5 million and primarily invests in seed stage companies. It favors tech-enabled companies with the potential for global reach.
Started by tech founders with more than a decade of experience, Overlooked Ventures invests in pre-seed and seed startups in tech, tech-enabled, and direct to consumer companies with at least one founder from a historically overlooked group. To manage incoming deal flow, the firm eschews warm introductions to keep the process unbiased. Overlooked Ventures has invested in eight companies so far and is actively raising capital for its $50 million fund. Bank of America recently became its first institutional investor.
14. Pipeline Angels
Pipeline Angels seeks to create funding opportunities for “trans women, cis women, nonbinary, two-spirit, agender, and gender-nonconforming founders” while changing the face of angel investing and venture capital. Its members fund founders at the friends and family stage, and have given out $7 million so far through its pitch summits, which connect founders and investors. For profit companies with a social or environmental mission are eligible to participate in pitch summits.
Precursor Ventures is a seed stage VC firm that is committed to investing in founders who represent “a wide variety of backgrounds” in terms of gender, race, academic experience and life circumstances. The firm primarily invests in companies headquartered in North America, and usually writes $250,000 checks for pre-seed rounds of $1 million or less or up to $500,000 for seed rounds of $4 million or less. Its portfolio is roughly split in half between B2B and B2C companies.
16. Rethink Impact
Rethink Impact bills itself as “the largest, U.S.-based venture capital firm investing in female and non-binary leaders using tech to solve the world’s biggest problems.” The firm writes checks from $2 million to $10 million, and leads or co-invests in late seed to Series C rounds. It focuses on companies with $500,000 to $15 million in annual recurring revenue that are on track to grow to $50 million to $100 million within five years. It looks for companies in health, environmental sustainability, education, and economic empowerment.
This fund from Rogue Venture Partners invests in early seed stage women-led technology companies across the U.S. Rogue Women also hosts invite-only networking events around the country, bringing together startup founders, corporate executives and investors.
SoftBank Group launched the SB Opportunity Fund in June 2020 as a $100 million commitment to U.S. Black, Latinx and Native American technology founders. Since then, the fund has fully invested that initial $100 million in over 70 companies led by underrepresented founders – and recently announced that the fund will continue as an uncapped “evergreen” fund with ongoing capital from SoftBank Group. The Fund, led by a diverse team, is currently focused on early-stage investments, primarily seed and Series A, and has had three exits to date.
19. Somerset Capital
Somerset Capital’s website proclaims “the next tech disruptor or innovator in the global startup ecosystem can and will be a female trailblazer.” Run by Juliette-Marie Somerset, a former Credit Suisse investment executive, the firm invests in early stage global startups. Specialties include fintech, cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Born out of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led companies, the firm was set up to lead or co-lead larger growth financings of $25 million to $100 million at the Series C stage and beyond. It seeks to support female entrepreneurs leading high-growth companies in the consumer sector, including consumer facing technology companies.
21. Unseen Capital
Unseen Capital aims to to identify, fund and support underrepresented founders of early-stage healthcare companies and those building solutions for marginalized communities. It plans to invest in up to 50 early-stage healthcare companies. The firm scored a $30 million investment from Eli Lilly in January 2021 to anchor the fund.
22. Vamos Ventures
Vamos Ventures makes initial investments of $500,000 to $2 million at the pre-seed to Series A stage. Its areas of focus include health and wellness, financial technology, future of work and sustainability. The firm seeks to fund Latinx and diverse founders.
WOCstar, which stands for women of color stars,” is an early stage investment fund that invests in tech companies led by women of color and diverse teams. It focuses on companies in the realms of media, consumption and sustainability.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we’d love to be able to feature more investors looking to make a difference. Know someone we left off? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “VCs on a mission.”
Update: this story has been updated to add more VCs.