The startup and tech communities are mourning the death of prominent Black venture capitalist Tyson Clark, who died Dec. 9 from complications of an unknown health issue. He was 43.
“With great sadness, we share the news that Tyson Clark, our friend and GV general partner, passed away yesterday due to sudden complications from a health issue. We are stunned and shattered by this loss,” GV tweeted in a statement from their official account. “The GV team extends our deepest sympathies to Tyson’s family and loved ones. We are privileged to know his warmth, intellect, integrity, mentorship and humor. We will miss him profoundly.”
A native Californian, Clark was a rarity – a Black venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. He joined GV, formerly Google Ventures, six years ago with a focus on “enterprise technology, including startups in the SaaS application and data center infrastructure spaces,” according to Tech Crunch.
Prior to joining GV, Clark was a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, an investment banker at Morgan Stanley and spent six years in the Navy as a nuclear submarine officer,” according to his official bio.
Clark said the experience shaped him as a leader during his time serving his country and thereafter. “I’ve always been fascinated by science and technology, and on the sub I had the opportunity to indulge those curiosities,” Clark said.
“After the military, I made my way into the world of corporate finance, first as an investment banker and later as a corporate development professional. There I learned that the world isn’t black and white, and what separates good reputations from bad is honesty and integrity,” he continued. “Today, as an investor, I do my best to recall lessons learned from those experiences, and bring those core values to every entrepreneur I partner with.”
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Clark earned his B.S. in industrial engineering from Stanford (with honors) and an MBA from Harvard Business School after leaving the navy. However, those who knew him best said his intellect was just one of the reasons Clark was special.
They lauded him for taking chances founders other VCs had overlooked. Clark himself once wondered aloud in a 2020 Bloomberg interview whether he’d done enough to help Black founders. in the tech space and admitted to feeling helpless sometimes, despite being
“Have I been so complicit that I’ve traded success for not making a difference?” Clark asked himself. “Humbly, there are a group of people in my position who want to do something, but feel like we don’t have enough power yet to be influential on this topic. It’s painful for all of us to feel this helplessness.”
Though he’d backed two Black founders out of the 11 companies he invested; regularly attended Black Tech events; judged pitch competitions; and toured HBCUs to network, Clark admitted he didn’t feel he’d done enough.
“I thought I was too junior to bring on something that didn’t fit the pattern recognition,” Clark said, meaning an investment that didn’t look like previous bets. “I knew what was the easy sell and what wasn’t.”
But Black founders who knew Clark said he’d done plenty.
“Absolutely crushed to hear this. Tyson believed in me when few did. Rest in Power Tyson,” Kairos founder Brian Brackeen tweeted. “This hurt man,” McKeeber “Mac” Conwell agreed.
Others who worked closely with Clark said his unexpected death was a great loss for so many reasons.
“Simply devastated today… Lost a dear friend, a partner, and an absolutely fabulous human. A brutal reminder that life is too short, time is extremely precious,” GV CEO David Krane wrote in the caption of a retweet of the company’s statement.
“We are told to not question Gods rationale for taking the most genuine, helpful, and thoughtful humans away from us. Like many of us, I will never comprehend this one,” Zeal Capital Partners Founder Nasir C. Qadree tweeted. “Thank you Tyson, for shaping my thinking and your tireless encouragement. Praying for the Clark family.”
Clark is survived by his wife, Abby, and three children.
Photo Links: https://twitter.com/GVteam/status/1469092256405622786 and https://www.gv.com/