Level Up: Welcoming our New Cultural Leadership Fund Nonprofit Partners

Megan Holston-Alexander and Judene Small

Over the last 5 years, the work of the Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF) has been growing and evolving to increase access to career paths and leadership roles in technology as an important gateway to wealth generation for the Black community. We partner with organizations that are both upskilling technical talent and tackling frontier industries. We are pleased to introduce you to some of the new, innovative organizations we work with every day to advance our mission.

In 2018, we launched CLF I with a core group of nonprofit partners—our Ecosystem Partners—who are collectively upskilling African American talent on a national scale through education and placement, while also providing African American professionals access to roles in tech. But what’s unique and important about the Ecosystem program is that this group receives financial support through 100% of our management fee and carry for the life of the fund. In the nonprofit space, long-term commitments are not the norm and organizations are required to constantly fundraise with little-to-no reprieve. Our goal has always been to give our partners the time, space, and resources to prepare and embed talent in this ecosystem.

Building upon that, we are pleased to welcome new Ecosystem Partners:

  • ColorStack, Inc.: helping Black and Latinx computer science students get degreed and hired nationwide.
  • The Colorwave Project, Inc.: providing leaders of color access to roles at VC-backed startups.
  • The Hidden Genius Project: training and mentoring Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.
  • The Marcy Lab School: a college alternative helping students unlock the skills and the network needed to launch a financially-rewarding, purpose-driven career in tech.

While the ecosystem partner program leans into long standing organizations that have proven to increase the pipeline of Black talent into the tech industry, there was an opportunity to innovate on our model. As our firm’s investment areas expanded and new technologies proliferated—for example, the rise in popularity and interest in web3—we recognized the need to deploy capital more flexibly throughout the life of our funds. With this new strategy, we can now bolster organizations that, while they may be new, are squarely focused on meeting the needs of the Black community as new trends unfold.

It is with this motivation that we officially established CLF’s Community Builder partners. This gives one-time donations to nonprofit organizations and initiatives strategically aligned with our firm’s investment focus areas that we believe are shaping the future. These groups may run an innovative program or develop a specific project that can help move the needle for more Black participation in new tech opportunities.

We are happy to welcome these incredible partners to the program:

  • Black@: a token-gated virtual community and safe space for Black founders, creators, investors, and community builders to connect to resources, business opportunities, social experiences, and one another.
  • Black Collegiate Gaming Association: providing education, access, and career opportunities into the gaming and esports industry for Black & women of color college & high school students.
  • Black in Gaming Foundation: a community dedicated to cultivating, supporting, and promoting Black professionals in the video game industry.
  • Black Women In Blockchain: inspiring, training, and activating a talent and economic pipeline of Black women pursuing professional and entrepreneurial careers in blockchain and fintech.
  • National Math and Science Initiative HBCU Teach: supporting HBCUs in developing permanent STEM teacher preparation pathways.

Finally, last year we took an even deeper look at how we can increase our impact. Sometimes, an organization doesn’t exist and needs to be created to address specific opportunities. Because of this, we created another pool of capital to support high-touch, high-impact initiatives that start as experiments but may be just crazy enough to change the landscape for Black people in tech as we know it. The first of these efforts was bringing together founding members of the Black Digital Art Collective—a decentralized autonomous organization focused on increasing Black artists and creators’ presence and influence in web3 while also educating the Black community on crypto and web3.

CLF continues to identify new approaches for bringing African Americans into tech at the earliest stages of innovation. We want to make sure Black perspectives are represented and that everyone has an opportunity to participate in transformative technology. As our industry continually changes, our hope is that our programming and partnerships will do the same.

Stay tuned for updates and if you know of any organizations making big strides in the work, in the words of the great Rihanna, PULL UP.

Software is eating the world.

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