Over the past two years, as technology companies continued to struggle with diversifying their work forces, Los Angeles-based venture capitalist Kobie Fuller wrestled with how to solve the problem.
As a black professional himself, Fuller had experienced the frustrations and isolation that can sometimes come with being the only person in the room who looked the way he did. He also dealt with being the go-to person for any startup company looking to hire from a diverse pool of candidates.
“For years, companies and venture capitalists have asked me for advice about where they can find amazing Black talent and I had my standard answers — which were basically limited to people in my network, [historically black colleges and universities], and a few niche associations,” said Fuller in a statement. “As a Black VC, I also wanted better visibility into my own community and couldn’t believe that a centralized network of Black professionals didn’t exist yet.”
Sitting in his office at the venture firm Upfront Ventures, overlooking Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean, Fuller says he was a bit puzzled by the fact that no one had come up with the solution to the problem. If the issue was finding talent, why not create a place that could collect those talented individuals in one place and encourage their professional development.
“People would come to me and say ‘I want to hire more black talent’…. And I just didn’t have that magical database in my head. But I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I did have that magic database of talent,” says Fuller.
That’s how Valence was born. The company, which launches today with $2.5 million from Upfront Ventures, alongside Sinai Ventures, Human Ventures, High Alpha and angel investors like Paul Judge, Peggy Alford and Willie Alford, is the fruit of two years of labor from Fuller and his co-founders La Mer Walker and Emily Slade.
“This goes back to when I met Paul Judge for the first time,” says Fuller. “He and I were expecting each other not to be black… It’s like the X-Men, where you think you’re the only mutant and then… “Oh shit! There are all of these other mutants out there! And I thought… Why don’t I just create Cerebro?”
Frankly, corporate America could use a Cerebro to solve its diversity problem, which remains acute not just in the technology industry but across American industry.
Currently only 3% of Silicon Valley’s workforce is black; there are only three black chief executives in the Fortune 500, and only 0.0006% of venture capital funding goes to black female founders. Finally, black people make up 13% of the nation’s population, but only hold 3% of the nation’s wealth, the company said.
Valence’s founders hope to help change that narrative in two ways. The first is simply through the creation of the network, which can serve as a single source for companies looking to hire black candidates into positions at their firms. In a way, it’s similar to how GirlBoss is creating a network for professional women that companies can access for recruiting.
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