UC Berkeley co-launches program to increase Black venture capitalists

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Maya Valluru/Staff
Black Venture Institute, a program aiming to provide education, mentorship and opportunities for networking for Black operators, was collaboratively launched by UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, BLCK VC, Operator Collective and Salesforce Ventures. The two-week program will also include multiple panels featuring industry experts and venture capitalists.

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UC Berkeley Haas School of Business co-launched a program aimed at doubling the number of Black venture capital investors over the next three years.

Black Venture Institute is a two-week program that will start Nov. 2 and will provide intensive education, mentorship and networking opportunities for Black operators — those who work with privately held companies to increase value — planning to work in venture capital, according to Kristina Susac, former vice president of UC Berkeley Executive Education.

“There are under 75 Black people who can write checks in the venture capital industry right now,” Susac said. “The program’s objective is to change that through the means of education and give aspiring Black investors the community, support and mentorship to thrive in an industry that is shaping our nation.”

In partnership with BLCK VC, Operator Collective and Salesforce Ventures, the program will be taught virtually through UC Berkeley Executive Education and has a goal of graduating 300 fellows by 2023, Susac added.

According to Susac, Toby Stuart, professor in entrepreneurship at Haas, will serve as the faculty director of the program and will teach the first cohort of 50 students, along with Drew Houston, Dropbox co-founder and CEO, and Stephen Bailey, ExecOnline founder and CEO.

The program will include company case studies, networking events and a curriculum that focuses on all aspects of venture capital, angel investing and the financing ecosystem for high-potential entrepreneurial ventures, Stuart said in an email.

“The Black presence in venture capital specifically and in high-growth companies more generally is not adequate,” Stuart said in the email. “We need to change this by providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills.”

By the end of the program, Black operators will have an awareness and understanding of jargon, technical features and networking opportunities, according to Stuart.

The program will also feature several panels of leading experts and venture capitalists in the industry, according to Leyla Seka, a former executive at Salesforce who co-founded Operator Collective. Venture capitalists from companies such as Plexo Capital, Benchmark and SV Angel will also serve as mentors to provide a broader community network for program participants to connect with in the future, Seka added.

Applications are still open for the first cohort of the program and can be accessed on the Black Venture Institute website, according to Seka. Seka emphasized, however, that the program aims to go far beyond the first cohort in November and its three-year goal.

“We don’t want this to stop after simply adding 300 more Black operators after three years. We want to add thousands more by changing the very industry itself,” Seka said. “The hope is that we’re putting out something that will bring systematic education and networking as a way of trying to approach a much larger systematic problem in society.”

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.