Episode 15: Investing in 1,000 Underrepresented Founders in 20 Years

Hello and welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! This week I spoke with Jarrid Tingle, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Harlem Capital. An early-stage investment firm, Harlem Capital in on a mission to diversify the landscape of entrepreneurs receiving venture funding by supporting women and people of color. As stated in the Forbes feature, the ultimate goal is to fund 1000 founders from diverse backgrounds over the next 20 years. Jarrid and I discussed how they aim to attain that goal, the impetus behind Harlem Capital, and his advice for minority entrepreneurs seeking venture funding.

When Jarrid and his friends started angel investing as a side project, they quickly realized that only a small percentage of venture capital and angel funding went to women and entrepreneurs of color. They saw an opportunity to make a huge change in the industry by focusing on early stage investing, since many of the female and minority led businesses weren’t in the asset class that larger firms targeted. Jarrid and his 3 co-founders made the bold and unapologetic decision to start their own firm, and thus Harlem Capital was born.

Harlem Capital is committed to transparency, measurable goals, and inspiring their peers to join their mission. “There’s always a lot of competition in this field, but we’re actually better off if more people start funds with similar missions to ours. We don’t just want to take over the market, we also want to grow the pot.” The clear, concise messaging of “1000 founders in the next 20 years” is part of that push, as well as an affirmation of long term engagement.

Jarrid has a wealth of advice to offer minority entrepreneurs in search of venture funding:

    • Balance confidence and self awareness. It’s important to display a high level of passion and confidence as a female or minority founder, but also to be aware of, and honest about, any weaknesses. “Don’t get defensive. [Potential investors] are going to ask you a lot of questions. See this for what it is — interest, and a chance to improve — and not a personal attack.”
    • Build a well-rounded team. If you personally lack core competencies such as marketing, human resources, or analytics, seek out someone who fits that role.
    • Know the process, know your numbers. Fundraising can take longer than many people anticipate, but proving your commitment by investing your own money provides a strong signal to investors. A high level of knowledge about both your own business and that of your competitors will also boost investor confidence.

Along with funding businesses where they can add value, Harlem Capital is creating a diversity portal via surveys on their site. This database of founders from diverse backgrounds will make it easier for women and founders of color to find investors dedicated to diversity. In addition to reducing friction in the process, this will also give the team a sense of the true landscape of diverse founders across the US.

Jarrid, thanks again for coming on the show! I can’t wait to see where you and your team take Harlem Capital in the years to come. Thanks for tuning in, listeners, and see you next week!