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Venture Capital and HBCUs at Atlanta Venture Capital Firm Valor

Recently, a team member at one of Valor’s capital partners, an HBCU, asked us about how HBCUs are active in our network. It’s a great question. We’re proud that one of the leaders of our sourcing platform, Mecca Tartt, is a Clark Atlanta grad. HBCUs are represented not only on our team, but also in our portfolio. Last week, I used our “Salesforce magic” and shot a survey to our portfolio founders this Black History Month to find out more.

As I write this, Valor portfolio companies employ just under 1,000 people, mostly in the South. 80% of our founders answered our survey right away, so  I suspect the data we have is fairly representative of our entire portfolio  . . . and has ramifications far past that.

Almost a quarter of our portfolio has a startup company owner on the cap table who is a former HBCU attendee.

We also learned Valor serves HBCUs in several key ways.

A leading example is our seed investment in Funding U. This Atlanta startup has funded 152 HBCU students for student loans that don’t require a co-signer. By number of loans given, the following 6 HBCUs are the highest by volume to date in Funding U’s AI-driven behavioral credit platform:

Another example is Ecotext, led by Nelson Thomas. Their first customer is Trentholm CC, an HBCU.

HBCUs have had a significant impact on the financial success of their graduates. A study by the United Negro College Fund found that HBCU graduates earn 20% more than similarly situated non-HBCU graduates and are more likely to hold professional and graduate degrees. This increased earning power, in turn, contributes to the overall financial stability of the communities in which HBCU graduates live and work. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, HBCUs are more likely to enroll students from families with low incomes and are more likely to award degrees to students in STEM fields, education, and business.

Valor is honored to have so many HBCUs represented within our portfolio’s ecosystem and is committed alongside them to investing in a way that builds equitable wealth. As a first professional investor, we’re proud ~35% of our capital to date has backed all black startup teams, and a majority of our capital (52% to date) has backed multi-racial teams.

Valor performs 28X better than “the average VC” at finding and backing top talent of color. This is a legacy we’re committed to building on.

If you’ve read this far, you might be interested in work, so I’d like to offer four ways to engage with us further.

  1. If you are a founder of color raising your first angel capital, please consider applying for a grant from Startup Runway, a 501c3 we founded with the mission of connecting underrepresented founders to their first investor. Founders in this program have gone on to raise over $50M thanks to our underwriters, which include Truist, Georgia Power, and, within Georgia, the Partnership for Innovation (PIN). Learn more.
  2. If you have a software startup with over $250K in ARR in the South and you’re looking for a local seed investor that matches your values, consider sharing your startup with Valor. Here’s how you reach our investment committee.
  3. If you’re an institution or leading family interested in investing with inclusion, and reflecting your values in your portfolio, get in touch with our founding managing partner Lisa Calhoun about how you can make a difference. Valor’s portfolio increased 69% in fair market value last year and we’re focused on top returns and top talent.
  4. If you’re an HBCU student or faculty member and you’d like one of your students to be considered for a paid internship at Valor, learn more about our venture capital internship program here.


Pictured above, Jeannie Tarkenton at Innovation for Equity Summit 2023 at Howard University, with With Richard (Dick) Adams Stacie Whisonant Scholly, Inc. and Kimberly N. M. Beam.