When we launched the CLF three years ago, we decided to focus on two main missions: connecting the world’s greatest cultural leaders to the best new technology companies and bringing more African Americans into the technology industry. With the support of our LPs, portfolio companies, and our extended network, we have developed a growing ecosystem that bridges culture and innovation.
Additionally, through CLF we have enabled more than $30 million of direct investments into our portfolio by Black investors, providing these LPs and individuals access to the next generation of wealth within the venture capital ecosystem.
We have also facilitated introductions between cultural leaders and our portfolio companies, sometimes resulting in equity partnership deals between those two parties. In equity deals, the cultural leaders are incentivized by a small percentage of ownership in a company, so they can share in more of the potential upside than offered by, say, a sponsorship deal. We’ve worked with crypto companies such as Bitski, Dapper Labs, Foundation, and OpenSea around such deals. In these instances, the cultural leaders are helping to further mainstream crypto — an important step for both the companies and our community if we want everything, from ownership models in the creative community to financial systems, to be more inclusive. We have facilitated similar equity partnerships with companies across our portfolio such as Hipcamp, Mercury, Overtime, Run The World, and Sandbox VR, among others.
While the Black community has historically played an important role in helping shape and grow some of the biggest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Snap), we didn’t benefit from early equity participation in those companies and thus failed to capture the economic upside from our involvement. CLF is helping to change that.
As an example, CLF brought Black investors into the Clubhouse Series A round and worked closely with our network to collectively shape the platform’s behavior and culture during its beta phase. We also helped other non-CLF investors participate in the round. This investment was the first private market investment for many Clubhouse users such as Ros Gold Onwude, Chloe Arnold, Maud Arnold, Angela Rye, Julie Wenah, and Shaka Senghor, enabling a direct economic stake in Clubhouse and the communities they were responsible for creating.
We said previously that we intended to donate 100% of CLF I’s management fees and carry. To date, we have donated more than $1.5M in CLF management fees and carry to our non-profit partners, a range of organizations that are deeply committed to our shared mission of increasing Black representation in tech.
For people who are ready to explore new career paths into tech, our team also launched the CLF Network — a community made up of nearly 2,000 Black professionals — to start providing direct connections to roles at a16z portfolio companies. We’ve answered the demand with over 300 1:1 networking sessions, profile shares, and introductions since launch, along with community events. We also launched our CLF newsletter which features job openings and curated, short-form content catered to the interests of our community — from gaming and crypto to product management, new digital ownership models, and more.
During the pandemic, we closed CLF II to create even more opportunities for Black cultural leaders who are interested in venture capital, technology, and the future of innovation. We also welcomed for the first time a number of HBCU endowments as limited partners in CLF II with the intention both to support the financial growth of their endowments and to provide additional resources to their students. Our relationships will also help foster a stronger talent pipeline between HBCUs and the overall technology industry. As an advisor to the Black Economic Alliance and Center of Black Entrepreneurship, I’ve already seen the positive impact of direct relationships between leadership at these institutions and Silicon Valley.
Looking ahead, I remain very excited about the prospects for CLF. We will change the face of the technology industry.