Atlanta-based Genius Guild has come out of stealth with more than $5 million in investments to help grow the ecosystem of Black-founded companies.
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The money comes from a variety of partners including Pivotal Ventures, The Impact Seat, First Close Partners and other individuals.
The new firm is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur and investor Kathryn Finney and takes a multifaceted approach to helping Black entrepreneurs — offering investment through its Greenhouse Fund to tech-enabled companies, while also offering a lab and studio to help Black founders build a community and receive business help and advise.
The idea for the venture originates back in 2012 and Finney’s days as founder of the nonprofit digitalundivided, which helped women of color fund and run their own businesses. Impact investing was just starting to take hold in areas that addressed issues such as climate change, and Finney believed a similar investing strategy could be used to combat another social problem.
“I thought why hasn’t anybody used it to combat racism?” she said.
However, it wasn’t until last year when the pandemic took hold and she again watched many Black entrepreneurs having a hard time finding capital that she realized the time was right.
“In March and April it was like all the rules were off,” said Finney, who started to give $100 micro-investments to some entrepreneurs during the pandemic. “It inspired me to do the Genius Guild,” she said.
While Finney could not discuss much about the new venture fund, she said she expects to write checks between $75,000 and $200,000 for about 30 to 50 companies over the next three or four years. The fund will target Black-founded companies in areas that can help the Black community as a whole — such as those that help build healthy environments or a sense of connection, she said.
Finney expects the Genius Guild Labs to be home to more than 1,000 Black-founded companies by the end of the year, with those companies helping each other create and incubate innovation that will focus on ending racism.
That may seem like an unachievable goal, but Finney points to a study by Citi that estimates $16 trillion have been lost in the U.S. economy in the last 20 years because of racial gaps for Black people, and argues it’s something that can and must be done.
“We know writing checks will not change the world in itself,” she said. “But we are offering a real solution. I am confident we can do this.”
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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