This is a major shot in the arm for Black innovators. Jewel Burks Solomon and the investment firm Collab Capital have raised more than $50 million for a venture capital fund exclusively for Black founders with the support of 99 limited partners.
While funding for innovators sometimes focuses on the broader term, “people of color (POC)”, this fund will be solely for Black innovators.
Collab Capital was founded by Burks Solomon, Justin Dawkins, and Barry Givens in 2018 with the goal of investing explicitly in Black founders. It debuted with $2 million in capital and a massive end target: $50 million. The VC firm also has backers such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, Google, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mailchimp, and PayPal, making it one of the largest funds closed from an entirely Black-led firm solely committed to Black founders, TechCrunch reported.
“We have been intentional and specific about our focus on Black founders since 2018 when we first began planning the launch of our fund,” Burks Solomon wrote in Medium. “At that time and when we began fundraising in 2019, many people told us that focusing exclusively on Black founders was too narrow and that we would not be successful in raising the fund or finding enough qualified Black founders to back.”
Burks Solomon founded Partpic, a startup that streamlined the purchase of maintenance and repair parts using computer vision technology. Partpic was acquired by Amazon in 2016, and she became a product leader at Amazon’s Visual Search and AR team. She led the integration of Partpic’s technology and launched it as Amazon PartFinder in 2018.
At Collab Capital, she said, “We never wavered from our mission, and are proud today to be in a position to write meaningful first checks and roll up our sleeves to help Black innovators build world-class businesses that scale, create jobs, and make a positive impact.”
Collab Capital issues checks between $500,000–750,000 for Black founders, with 30 percent of the fund reserved for investments up to $2 million.
The fund will invest in 50 startups across the U.S. over the next three to five years, Burks Solomon wrote. “The majority of the investments will fund companies in our hometown of Atlanta and cities like DC, Houston, Detroit, St. Louis, and New Orleans.”
“We are particularly interested in founders who are using technology to solve problems related to the future of work, learning, and care (i.e. elder care, fem-tech, mental wellness), as we think these areas have the highest impact on society overall,” wrote Burks. “Black folks are often the most marginalized in each of these areas and therefore are more likely to have experience and perspective that can lend to the best, most inclusive solutions.”
The news was welcomed on Twitter.
“Congratulations to Jewel, Barry and Justin ! They are GIANTS in the Atlanta Tech community and around the Country ! This is MAJOR !!!” tweeted Mike Ross @mikerossatl.
Shaun Chavis @ShaunChavis tweeted, “I’m so thrilled about this and what it means for the startup ecosystem in the Southeast US.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 43: Jewel Burks Partpic founder and CEO Jewel Burks discusses how she developed an idea to streamline the purchase, repair and maintenance of parts. Partpic was acquired by Amazon in 2018.