The Importance of Investing in Black and Latino Entrepreneurs

Racial diversity in investing and startups can be just as crucial as gender diversity. Black Enterprise spoke to one woman who supports and focuses especially on black, Latino and Latina founders.

Monique Woodard, a venture partner at 500 Startups, discussed why she focuses on black and Latino/Latina communities; the unique spending power, habits and demographics of people of color; how she selects startups she thinks would be a good fit for 500 Startups and more. - Despite the statistics, black women in the venture capital investing community are starting to be a more frequent occurrence. Additionally, they are working tenaciously to ensure that black and Latino founders get funding, but not for reasons that you may suspect.

Black Enterprise chatted with 500 Startups venture partner Monique Woodard, who explained why she decided to create a fund focusing solely on investing in black and Latino entrepreneurs in consumer categories that are seeing high growth among black and Latino consumers.

Black Enterprise: 500 Startups is one of the most respected accelerators in the world. How did you get involved with them?

Woodard: I’ve been in tech for roughly 15 years; half of that time as an entrepreneur, and the other half inside companies in product roles. I worked in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation. There, I worked on open data and municipal broadband access in communities like Chinatown and Bayview. In addition to that, I built an app called Speak Chic. I also founded Black Founders, which I started in 2011, and I am still the executive director of this program.

I was finishing up my work with the mayor’s office while thinking about my next steps, and I started talking to 500 Startups, very broadly, about doing something with them and Black Founders. I started talking about the access to capital piece that I was thinking through [due to my work with] Black Founders, and we kept having more conversations. Eventually, Dave and Christine suggested that I raise that type of fund at 500 Startups.

BE: Why had you specifically decided to focus on black and Latino founders?

Woodard: My deal flow there is very different from others. I have some of the best access to those deals that other early-stage venture capitalists don’t have.

Also, the activity is very much demographically and economically driven, according to the data. Black and Latino consumers have $2.5 trillion in consumer spending power. By the year 2044, people of color will be a majority in the U.S. Likewise, in the 18 to 34-year-old demographic, black and Latino [citizens] are outpacing their counterparts.

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