Talent x Opportunity Initiative
Two of America’s enduring exports are technology and culture. We’ve near perfected the art, science, and business of scaling technological breakthroughs, but we’ve not yet done the same for cultural breakthroughs. The Talent x Opportunity Initiative (TxO) is a step in that direction: a system that discovers and supports cultural geniuses in building large, enduring businesses around their cultural breakthrough in a way that lets creators retain majority ownership of their companies.
Culture and technology are two of America’s most important and enduring exports. Over the last few decades, we’ve built and refined an ecosystem for scaling technology companies: from patient capital for all stages of a business, to deeply interconnected talent networks, to open source software and company-building best practices.
But the ecosystem for cultural breakthroughs is much less developed. When we speak with company builders, they often complain about how sparse the ecosystem is, with spotty access to capital and mentorship, a lack of systematic training, and a much less well developed set of company building blocks.
Our goal with the TxO Initiative is to help emerging cultural geniuses by providing them access to a new system of funding, training, and mentorship that helps these entrepreneurs build durable, successful companies around their cultural innovations.
The Talent x Opportunity Initiative has four components:
The TxO Fund is a Donor Advised Fund managed by Tides Foundation. The TxO Fund’s standard investment terms provide that in exchange for $100,000, an entrepreneur agrees to give Tides Foundation (as sponsor of the TxO Fund) a SAFE note that converts into a 7% ownership stake in the company.
The TxO University is a 10-month online training and mentorship program that is hand-tailored for culture driven startups. The goal of the accelerator is to select a small cohort of cultural geniuses who lack the necessary networks to scale their idea into a global business and to equip them with the networks and knowledge needed.
The TxO Partners are a select group of corporations that will contribute products, services, and expertise to TxO companies.
The TxO Community, a collection of donors, mentors, and eventually alumni that will rally to support TxO founders.
a16z does not profit from any of the returns: all returns generated by these holdings go directly back into the fund, with the hope that we can continue to support many future generations of founders. Contributors to the fund will not receive any return of capital or appreciation on the fund’s investments.
Interested in donating to TxO or becoming a partner?Contact Us »
The TxO Advisory Committee is comprised of renowned industry and cultural leaders who have generously offered their time to advise the a16z TxO team on overall program strategy.
Much gratitude to our Premier Donors, who joined well over a hundred other contributors in supporting TxO with a financial gift.
- Stewart Butterfield
- Avichal Garg
- Bob Ghoorah
- ZTEOG Foundation (Jim Goetz)
- Thomas Laffont
- Aaron Levie
- Jen Rubio
- Curtis Spencer
- Kenny Stone
How do I apply to TxO?
We are no longer accepting applications for the first cohort, but stay tuned for more information on future cohorts.
How many companies will be accepted to the accelerator program (TxO University)?
Our initial cohort is seven companies. We will expand over time, with a goal of running two cohorts a year.
How many companies applied for the first cohort? What was the acceptance rate?
We received over 1,200 applications and selected seven companies for the first cohort, an acceptance rate of less than 0.58%. For comparison, Stanford admitted just under 5.2% of applicants to the class of 2024.
How long does the TxO University program run for each cohort?
The program will be 10 months long, hosted online.
Are accepted applicants required to move to the Bay Area to receive funding or access the network?
The first cohort will be online and will not be required to move to the Bay Area to receive funding or access the network. Note that we are only working with U.S.-based founders at this time.
What is the selection criteria for TxO University?
We will select founders based on:
- Attractiveness of the product & market
- Size of the addressable market (could this be a global phenomenon?)
- Defensible business with compelling unit economics
- Cultural moat (the business reimagines its category)
- Demonstrated progress
- Having an existing U.S.-based corporation that is already up and running
- Team (on board or in pipeline to hire)
- Customers, revenue, and other financial metrics
- Proven engagement: social media followers, etc.
- Founding team
- Ability to execute
- Ability to improve
- Cultural authenticity (founding team has cultural secrets that incumbents do not)
- TxO’s ability to help
- Product/founder fit
- We seek founders without the traditional background (for example, technical degree from a top global university or years of experience working in major corporations or the tech ecosystem) and resources (for example, a rich and deep professional network, ready access to funding) to build great companies
- Attractiveness of the product & market
Will TxO only be accepting technology companies?
We expect most of our investments to fall outside of the realm of traditional technology companies, instead creating or tapping into emerging cultural trends.
What is the mentorship program and how can I get involved?
TxO will build and maintain a network of mentors, matching them with TxO founders at critical inflection points in the company’s growth. Mentors are seasoned entrepreneurs, operators, and investors with relevant experience building successful businesses and organizations. For each set of TxO founders, we will determine how we can be most helpful in growing their businesses and match them with mentors based on need and availability.
As a mentor, you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by sharing your time, expertise, and perspective with the next generation of talented entrepreneurs. If you would like to volunteer to be a mentor and help TxO founders grow their companies, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you partnering with external organizations?
Yes. We are engaging with:
- Early stage investors, accelerators, and incubators to identify potential TxO founders
- Product/service companies who can offer free or discounted software or services (e.g. financial planning, accounting, legal, marketing, etc.) to TxO founders
- Fortune 500 companies to identify mentors and marketing/sales/partnership opportunities for TxO founders
- Tides Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity that sponsors the TxO Fund (see more below)
If you’re interested in partnering with TxO, please email us at email@example.com.
What is the TxO Fund and how is it different from a traditional venture capital fund?
The TxO Fund is a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at Tides Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to advancing shared prosperity and social justice, including through investments, programs and grant making that advance equity and economic empowerment. As the donor advisor to the TxO Fund, a16z makes recommendations regarding investments and disbursements from the TxO Fund. Tides Foundation exercises discretion and control with respect to all amounts in the TxO Fund, and uses its independent judgment to determine whether a proposed investment or distribution is aligned with Tides’ mission, the purpose of the Fund, and otherwise complies with applicable law.
This structure allows anyone (including non-accredited investors) to donate and join us in our mission, decentralizing who can and cannot participate in TxO. Contributions to the Fund will be treated as charitable contributions for tax purposes. In addition, all returns generated from the Fund will go back to the Fund and be used to support future generations of founders – whether through continued investments or to create pathways for those who otherwise face material barriers to accessing capital through charitable contributions. Consistent with the charitable nature of contributions to the Fund, contributors will not receive any return of capital or appreciation on the Fund’s investments.
How do I donate to the TxO Fund?
We gratefully accept donations to the TxO Fund here.
How is TxO affiliated with a16z?
TxO is separate from existing a16z funds. a16z will provide resources to support TxO activities at its own expense and is responsible for the management and operational costs of the TxO University. Otherwise, TxO has no relationship to other a16z funds or operations. All access to the firm’s expertise is on a voluntary basis only and not programmatic. In the future, it’s possible that TxO graduates may receive follow-on investments from a16z’s venture fund, but this is not guaranteed and is not an active goal of the Initiative.
What are the standard terms of a TxO Fund investment?
The TxO Fund’s standard investment terms provide that in exchange for $100,000, an entrepreneur agrees to give Tides Foundation (as sponsor of the TxO Fund) a SAFE note that converts into a 7% percentage ownership stake in the company. a16z does not profit from any of the returns: All returns generated by these holdings go directly back into the Fund, with the hope that we can continue to support many future generations of founders.
How is TxO different from the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund?
The a16z Cultural Leadership Fund is a traditional venture capital fund, which co-invests alongside other a16z investments. The fund’s limited partners include influencers from the worlds of corporate, entertainment, and professional sports. As with a typical venture capital fund, the limited partners are entitled to receive a return on their investment and share in the profits generated by the fund. Uniquely though, the general partner of the Cultural Leadership Fund—namely, Andreessen Horowitz—has agreed to donate all management fees and its share of the profits to a set of carefully selected nonprofits creating pathways for African Americans to find jobs in the technology ecosystem.
TxO is different in many respects:
- TxO acts more like an accelerator for uniquely talented entrepreneurs who have been excluded from the traditional pathways to venture capital by providing an “on ramp” in the form of mentorship, advice, and network access that can dramatically improve the trajectory of a business.
- Contributors to the TxO Fund are not entitled to any return of capital or profits generated by the Fund’s investments. Contributions are made to a donor advised fund and are tax-deductible.
- The Fund will not invest in deals a16z has already invested in. Rather, the Fund seeks to invest in entrepreneurs who are building companies around cultural breakthroughs who generally lack access to traditional venture capital investment.
What is Tides?
Tides Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to advancing shared prosperity and social justice, including through investments, programs and grantmaking that advance equity, and is the charitable organization sponsoring the TxO Fund. Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) is responsible for the management and operational costs of the accompanying TxO accelerator training program. a16z also screens grantees and makes grant recommendations to Tides for funds to be released to participants in that program. Tides Foundation exercises discretion and control with respect to all amounts in the TxO Fund and uses its independent judgment to determine whether a proposed investment or distribution is aligned with Tides’ mission, the purpose of the Fund, and otherwise complies with applicable law.
- Who makes investment recommendations to Tides?
What happens with Fund returns?
Neither a16z nor TxO Fund donors will receive any Fund returns: All returns generated by the TxO Fund will go directly back into the Fund to support future generations of founders.
How will TxO measure the success of the overall initiative?
Our goal is to create an alternative funding path and mentoring network for cultural geniuses building companies from outside of the mainstream networks that feed Silicon Valley. We will measure success in terms of:
- Returns generated by the Fund (to measure how large and successful the businesses grow)
- Impact on culture and on the categories being addressed
- The quality of the training programs that help the entrepreneurs achieve success
- The size and quality of the mentor network (including TxO alumni)
- The size and quality of the partner ecosystem
Maxine Clark is the Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. Founded in 1997, there are over 500 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide, and nearly 200 million stuffed animals have been sold.
Maxine stepped down from her CEO position in 2013 to dedicate her time to investing in women and minority entrepreneurs and to use her entrepreneurial skills to help re-imagine K-12 education in St. Louis. Launched in 2015, her first product, Blueprint4.com, is a free and easy-to-use mobile tool designed to help ALL St. Louis families navigate cradle to career options. Her latest venture is the Delmar DivINe™—the transformation of a neighborhood eyesore in a disinvested community, into a multi-use real estate development to open in 2021.
Maxine is a Founding Managing Director of Prosper Women’s Capital, a St. Louis based accelerator for women led businesses and on the Board of Advisors of Lewis and Clark Ventures. Maxine is a member of the Build-A-Bear Workshop, Footlocker, Inc., the New America, and PBS Boards of Directors. In 2019 Maxine received the Missourian Award, in 2017 she was named to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame and in 2015 was named Women of the Year by the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation.
Maxine is a graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from St. Louis University and an Honorary Doctor in Humane Letters from the University of Missouri St. Louis and an honorary Associate of Arts degree from St. Louis Community College. In 2006, she published her first book The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart.
Getting her start at Hewlett Packard, Caretha has spent 40 years in the technology industry working with start-ups and early stage ventures in the areas of organizational strategy development; and executive coaching and effectiveness. She served as Chief Human Resources Officer for Software Publishing Corporation, where her leadership was instrumental in pioneering one of the first successful desktop computer software businesses. At Interval Research, Caretha served at CAO where she was responsible for Finance, HR, and Facilities.
Ms. Coleman is Chairman of the board for Dignity Community Care; and is a member of the boards of The RealReal and Viridis Learning. She is an advisor to Illuminate, an early stage VC firm focused on enterprise, cloud and mobile computing, as well as Launch with GS; and Culture Shift.
Her non-profit interests centers on work focused with underserved population. She chairs the board of The Leverage Network (TLN), is a board member of KIPP Schools in the Bay Area, and a national Board Member of Facing History and Ourselves, and on the advisory board of the Black Economic Alliance.
An advocate for women and minorities in business, Caretha demonstrates her commitment to mentoring young professionals and entrepreneurs across the country. She has been recognized as one of the Bay Area’s most influential women by the San Francisco Business Times; and Outstanding Director by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and was named a Visionary Leader by the SF Chronicle for her work in diversity. An American Leadership Forum Fellow, Caretha is a recipient of the YMCA’s Red Triangle award, which recognized the highest level of volunteer. She was also recognized with the Black Enterprise Trailblazer award in 2016; and nominated as a Visionary Leader in the Bay Area for her work towards creating a more diverse community inside and outside of the workplace.
Kenneth L. Coleman (Ken) is a Special Advisor to Andreessen Horowitz. He is the Chairman of EIS Software. Ken was the founder and CEO of ITM Software. Previously, Ken held executive positions at Silicon Graphic Inc. (SGI), Activision, and HP. He has served as the Chairman of two publicly traded technology companies, MIPS Technology and Accelrys. In addition to EIS, Ken serves on the boards of Entertainment Partners, Prevedere, DHP and Saama Technologies. He also serves as an advisor to CSAA Insurance Group, as well as to several early stage technology companies including Pinterest, Sleeper and Substack. He is on the board of the non-profits MLT and National Museum of African American History and Culture. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council.
Dr. Paul Judge is an entrepreneur and investor based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has cofounded three companies that were acquired and has invested in over 60 tech-enabled companies. This economic development work has helped create over 1,000 jobs. He is currently Cofounder & Partner of TechSquare Labs and Cofounder & Executive Chairman of Pindrop. Pindrop’s voice security technology protects some of the largest financial institutions and enterprises in the world and has received over $200 million of venture capital funding. TechSquare Labs is a company building studio and venture fund based in Atlanta. Previously Paul was cofounder of Luma Home which was acquired by a Fortune 500 corporation in 2018. Paul was also cofounder of Purewire, a web security company, that was acquired by Barracuda Networks in 2008. Paul served as Chief Research Officer at Barracuda through its billion dollar IPO in 2013. Prior to this, Paul was Chief Technology Officer of CipherTrust, a leader in email security, that was acquired by Secure Computing for $270 million in 2006. Paul is the lead inventor on over 30 patents.
Paul has received many awards including being named to Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list, MIT’s Technology Review Magazine’s “Top 100 Innovators under 35”, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 Under 40” list, Atlanta Business League’s Trailblazer Award, Black Enterprise’s “50 Most Powerful Players Under 40”, and InfoWorld’s “Top 25 CTOs”. Paul has served on the advisory board for Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), and Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC). He is a member of the 2016 Class of Henry Crown Fellows and the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute. Paul earned a B.S. from Morehouse College and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in Computer Science.
Thomas Laffont is co-founder of Coatue, one of the largest technology investments platforms in the world with over $20 billion in assets under management. He is responsible for launching and leading the firm’s private investments across both early stage and growth platforms. Thomas is passionate about partnering with entrepreneurs to build enduring and impactful companies. With a particular focus on technology across the US, Europe and Asia, Thomas founded Coatue’s annual East Meets West Conference, a gathering of global technology founders and executives. Prior to joining Coatue, Thomas spent 7 years at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, where he focused on representing artists in Motion Picture and Television. He graduated from Yale College with a degree in Computer Science and lives in the Bay Area.
Shaka Senghor is the President of Shaka Senghor, Inc. and the Founder of Redeemed Sole. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison, debuted on The New York Times Best Seller List.
Today, his priority is shifting societal narratives through storytelling.
Transcending industries, Shaka Senghor, builds and executes global strategies, develops thought focused leadership and cultural campaigns as a consultant for businesses and non-profit organizations internationally.