‘We’re Not Coming For The Crumbs’: Spotlight On Venture Capital And Chinedu Enekwe

‘We’re Not Coming For The Crumbs’: Spotlight On Venture Capital And Chinedu Enekwe

Chinedu Enekwe wants to change the world, but he actually has a plan.

It involves venture capital — changing the hands that hold the funds, changing the fund managers, and changing the locations where those funds are invested.

Born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents, Enekwe co-founded an accelerator in 2014 — Tiphub Africa — that invests in the African diaspora and Africa. That effort gave rise to a newer endeavor, Affiniti Ventures.

Even if Black people only have 2 percent of the wealth, that’s 6,000 Black active investors that no one has a list of, that no one knows.” — Chinedu Enekwe, partner and developer at Affiniti Ventures

Enekwe moved to Africa twice, managing a fund and working as an investment banker there. Now he’s based in Washington, D.C., along with Tiphub and Affiniti.

Chinedu Enekwe talks to Moguldom about why African Americans should care about Trump’s crackdown on immigration, and his ambitions to build a family of funds at Affiniti VC.

What sets us apart is our ambitions. We’re not coming for the crumbs. We’re going to take the whole table.” — Chinedu Enekwe, partner and developer at Affiniti Ventures

Venture Capital

Moguldom: You wear many hats. You’re a venture capitalist, a partner and developer at Affiniti Ventures, an investment fund advisor, a securities attorney and a startup mentor. What’s your favorite part?

Chinedu Enekwe: My favorite is talking to founders. I get to do that with most of the things I do but sometimes I just break out and do it, help them with their ideas, get it off the ground, think through their challenges and triage with them. Learning how they work and walk through challenges is some of the best opportunities that I’ve had. The reason I started Affiniti comes from the fact that I started an accelerator first called Tiphub Africa. We supported 37 startups that went on to raise $8 million. We were looking for digital startups from the global Black diaspora. One of the things I found is that there aren’t that many investors that are readily identifiable to support Black and brown startups. I was surprised that Black people and brown people, despite there being some wealth in our communities, that wealth wasn’t being channeled in early-stage opportunities.

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My vision is to build a family of funds that would change the world.” — Chinedu Enekwe.

I said there’s a bigger opportunity here, not just focusing on the African startups, but how do we step out of these myopic African challenges? They all face the same challenges. How do you make sure that there’s a whole bunch of funds? There’s 10 million accredited investors. Even if Black people only have 2 percent of the wealth, that’s 6,000 Black active investors that no one has a list of, that no one knows. My partners saw that. There’s so much money that if we can access it, we can create a number of funds that can really change the world by changing whose hands those funds are in, changing the fund managers, and the locations those funds are invested in.

Moguldom: You were treasurer and board member of the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation. Why should African Americans care about Trump’s crackdown on immigration?

Chinedu Enekwe: From a macro level, the rise of Africans that have immigrated into America since the ’70s has skyrocketed. The same level of immigration from the Caribbean also. It calls into question what is the definition of an African American. I’m an African American and it affects my family members. It affects the way that America treats anyone, whether they’re traveling, when they travel. Do we Americans want to treat anyone by taking away their family? Immigration is going to become more and more a theme of African Americans. Black Americans should use their lobbying power to take a stand on immigration. They do have a significant lobbying power. How we reacted to certain campaigns — we’ve been able to marshal significant political will. We did it in Georgia. The Congressional Black Caucus has been able to throw its weight around.

My wish is that money comes out from behind the curtain and takes a central seat at the table.” — Chinedu Enekwe.

I was involved (in the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation) mainly because of dealing with the identity issues and mental health issues that come with immigration. I did know the director and thought I’d lend a hand. I really believed that mental health issues — especially in African immigrants — are ravaging our community. No one talks about it. There’s a significant taboo. It has affected my family. I wanted to address it in any way possible — the mental health issues, especially in older African American immigrants. For example in Maryland, the seniors in mental health facilities over-indexed for African immigrants. You see that anywhere you see large numbers of African immigrants. What that tells me is that coping mechanisms aren’t there, whether it’s the ability to have conversations with psychiatrists, or as a family having dark thoughts — is significant. I think the way around it for our community (is) to have open conversations about mental health, knowing what those resources are — regularly having conversations and reducing stigmas about speaking to a mental health professional.

venture capital
Chinedu Enekwe, partner and developer at Affiniti VC. Photo provided

Moguldom: You got your law degree from Howard University. Talk about the experience.

Chinedu Enekwe: Howard was a great experience for me. A lot of things for me were transformational. I was introduced to private equity in my first year by a major law firm (New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges)  that hired me while I was at school. I worked over the summer there and after graduation. I left them to go to Merrill Lynch (because I knew I wanted to go to the other side) and they trained me in private equity. I didn’t know what private equity was until then. One of the first transactions I worked on was Global Infrastructure Partners (founded by Nigerian-born lawyer and investment banker Adebayo O. Ogunles). Howard — when you do well — there’s a lot of resources at your disposal. Howard Law graduates the most Black lawyers in the country, appoints the most Black judges, and also over-indexes for placing Black people in nonprofits, federal government jobs, Wall Street. The professors stay in touch with you, care about your outcome. I’ve been to several institutions. Howard professors remain the most engaged. While at Weil I was introduced to Aaron Ford (Majority Leader of the Nevada Senate, running for Attorney General). My best friend is running for district attorney in Boston.

Moguldom: What do you want people to know about Affiniti VC? What sets the firm apart?

Chinedu Enekwe: We cultivate in the venture community folks that are Black and brown, creating shared prosperity. We have very strategic ways of doing that, looking at venture in a very different way, taking what we’ve learned and applying it to VC, creating a family of funds, creating partnerships. Right now we’ve partnered with three fund managers and are building relationships with more. We have $27 million under management and we’re going to grow that to $80 million by the end of the year. Our goal is to work with 10 managers, having them invest with us $100M and have deployed $1B within 10 years. We have an ambitious vision, creating diverse outcomes led by women, people of color, and (diverse) geographies. We’re trying to assemble the people with the right vision. What sets us apart is our ambitions. We’re not coming for the crumbs. We’re going to take the whole table. It would have been more pie-in-the-sky if we weren’t able to form the partnerships we were able to form. My vision was to build a family of funds that would change the world. I saw the problem that pools of capital were there that weren’t being tapped into. If we just invest through or with them, we can create something special. We’re early days but we’ve done some things. We’ve put our foot in it.

Moguldom: What is your wish list?

Chinedu Enekwe: To have everyone invested in changing the world and invested in a real way whether it’s time, talent or treasure — putting one of those three things where their mouth is. On a lower level, that we identify some folks from all parts of the capital spectrum, that we identify with the most prominent Black and brown folks who want to partner with us, in some early-stage opportunities that become iconic names, that create some large opportunities that are not only large in finance but that change the world. My wish is that money comes out from behind the curtain and takes a central seat at the table.