The Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF) at a16z was founded to address gaps in access and equity for Black communities in technology. a16z found early on that when it came to what was considered “cool” or “fashionable” — when companies depended on the creativity of their user-generated content, when we heard what songs the world was singing or rapping, or when the emergence of streetwear became part of mainstream dress code — the innovators that consumers strove to emulate were almost always Black. As these creators of cultural phenomena embraced new technology platforms, the investment of their time and talent contributed directly to the platforms’ blistering growth and success. But very rarely did they have the opportunity for early equity participation or ownership in these platforms.
The Cultural Leadership Fund was designed as an opportunity to contribute to two major shifts: more Black dollars on the cap tables of the world’s best companies AND Black talent embedded into technology companies at the earliest stages. We believe these shifts, if committed to in a systematic and sustainable way, can have a meaningful impact on building generational wealth for Black communities.
We do this in the following ways:
Our fund: The Cultural Leadership Fund is the first venture capital fund focused exclusively on Black Limited Partners. CLF co-invests in a16z portfolio companies.
Our network: Beyond the LPs in our fund, we’ve built a broad network of leaders in music, sports, entertainment, art, and business. We facilitate thoughtful introductions with a16z portfolio companies, often leading to mutually beneficial opportunities as companies look to scale and grow.
Our talent: All of a16z’s management fees and carry generated from our funds are donated to nonprofit organizations that work to actively engage and advance more African Americans into technology roles. We also continue to grow and nurture the CLF Talent Network which connects Black professional talent with opportunities in the technology industry.
I’m thrilled to announce our third fund consisting entirely of Black cultural leaders and organizations committed to Black ownership and wealth generation. We’ve welcomed back a number of Fund I & II investors while also expanding to include a fresh slate of cultural leaders who connect with the mission for the first time. We’re excited to welcome to CLF III, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Anderson .Paak, Andrea and Charles Young, Angelique Brunner, Anré Williams, Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin, Bubba Wallace, Clarence Nesbitt, DeAndre Ayton, Danny Green, Dez Bryant, DJ Augustin, Erin Teague, Kelvin Beachum, Kenneth Frank, Kyle Lowry, La Mar Taylor, Leonard Fournette, Lionel Richie, Maya Moore, MK, Nneka Ogwumike, Patrick Mahomes, Pharrell Williams, Pierre Aubameyang, Troy Millings, Rashad Bilal, Shellye Archambeau, Stacy Brown-Philpot, and numerous others. Our investors are true representations of cultural leadership and their influence is undeniable. Beyond their accomplishments and accolades, what makes them a great fit for CLF is that they are excited about technology, curious about the innovation process, and want to play a role in building the future.
In the four years since CLF raised its first fund, we’re starting to see the realized progress on our mission:
Since joining a16z and now leading CLF, I’ve seen us go from one fund to three, I’ve seen CLF LPs become some of the savviest, most thoughtful investors I’ve ever come across, and I’ve witnessed multifaceted Black contributions continue to shape and shift cultural norms.
Our ability to embrace all the tones, facets and locales into the definition of who we are is what makes our community so dynamic and trailblazing — an international soccer player for the most valuable team in the world, a NASCAR driver changing the face of a sport, music legends whose art and influence span generations, the NBA’s defensive player of the year, one of two Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies — our investors continue to push boundaries to inspire what’s possible.
But the age of the disengaged celebrity is over. Ownership and community building are at the forefront of our work. It is how we will reach our ultimate goals of getting more young Black talent into tech companies and building wealth for future generations.
We’ve grown our team in a critical way to continue to support this mission. Deborah Embaie, a former sports manager, Derek Dolin, a former entertainment manager, and Judene Small, a marketing and community expert, round out a highly-skilled, laser-focused core team that is putting the mission on their backs. We’d be in first gear without them. We’ve also established partnerships with like-minded organizations and will continue to expand the ways in which we collaborate in order to accelerate our mission.
I’m energized to start work each day because of the opportunity we have to help usher a new generation of voices to work in this industry and to invest into deals that have the potential to change lives. Carrying on the tradition of a16z cofounder, Ben Horowitz, it only feels right to draw inspiration from hip-hop,
“Over here, we measure success by how many people successful next to you.
Here, we say you broke if everybody is broke except for you.” — The Carters, “BOSS”
This is what CLF will always be about.