Nex Cubed, the venture accelerator that launched a $40 million fund to target founders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), announced today a venture scouting partnership with the nonprofit HBCU.vc to help train the next generation of Black venture capitalists.
HBCU.vc offers fellowships and an angel investing network to HBCU students and alumni, and Nex Cubed has trained more than 700 students through its nonprofit foundation.
“Instead of reinventing the wheel and setting up a separate program targeted at HBCUs, we decided to team up with HBCU.vc and provide them with an opportunity to go beyond their fellowship program to provide their fellows with real-life experiences working with a VC firm,” Nex Cubed CEO Marlon Evans told TechCrunch.
Chelsea Roberts, the COO of HBCU.vc, said she hopes this partnership leads to more opportunities for HBCU students and alumni to tap into tech. “That means doing so with resources,” she said, “and having key stakeholders and players in this industry support HBCU talent to ensure they’re on an equal playing field.”
Scout programs are a great avenue for helping aspiring investors build track records and relationships while also allowing firms access to talent and possible deals. This scouting program will see HBCU.vc fellows and its alumni being mentored on everything from performing due diligence to drafting investment memos. Nex Cubed says the fellows will also receive a percentage of carry in the fund if a startup they sourced goes on to receive investments.
It’s long understood that increasing diversity on the investing level will help boost the amount of marginalized founders receiving capital. Right now, Black founders account for less than 5% of all investors, and receive just about 1% of all venture capital funding in any given year. At the same time, HBCUs have long been incubators for Black talent, but are often ignored in the larger context of sourcing tech and business talent. They were started in the 1800s as a place to educate African Americans since most were barred from attending existing predominantly white institutions.
Today, there are more than 100 HBCUs, with schools like Howard University and Clark Atlanta often cited as Black Ivy Leagues. HBCUs graduate a quarter of all African-American STEM students, many of whom hail from North Carolina A&T State University, Howard University and Spelman College.
Nex Cubed and HBCU.vc are not alone in their efforts to work with this segment of the population. The Historical Fund, a fund-of-funds, has donated $10 million to nine HBCUs to help them invest in venture capital. There was also an effort by investor Lo Toney of Plexo Capital to get more venture capital firms to accept HBCUs as limited partners.
Overlooking HBCUs is overlooking the future of innovation, Evan said.
“Part of our investment thesis is that the individuals who have firsthand experiences of some of these problems are going to be the people who can come up with some of the most innovative solutions to address them,” he said. “It’s a financial priority that we make sure we’re not overlooking a tremendous talent pool.”
Applications for the HBCU.vc x Nex Cubed program are being accepted. Those interested can apply here.