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A16z’s new Talent X Opportunity Fund sets to "level the playing field" for Black and Brow

America is “burning”.

The country has literally been set on fire. Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, the recent turn of events has rocked the world to its core by violence at the hand of police officers.

George Floyd, an unarmed man was arrested by Officer Derrick Chauvin. Allegedly, police were called because Floyd tried to use a $20 counter fit bill at a local grocery store. After the arrest, Officer Derrick Chauvin was recorded applying his knee on the neck of Floyd, eventually suffocating him to death. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds straight George Floyd pleaded for his life, unarmed and not resisting arrest.

The graphic visual is surreal to watch, yet all too familiar at once. Your mind and body goes from rage, to hurt, then pain to an incredibly overwhelming sense of helplessness. It’s as if all of your emotions are piercing through your body like a lightning bolt.

As the world watched in horror, many took to the streets. What followed were violent uprisings. For the last 8 days, protesters clashed with police. Peaceful protests irrupted into violence.

From sun up to sun down, remnants of tear gas and ashes settle like a thick cloud over American cities across the nation.

The recent murder of George Floyd and countless others, feels like a band aid being ripped off of the unhealed wound on Black bodies.

Time for a "Call to Action"

Several Black Founders vocalized their frustrations with racism and how it has played an integral role in seeking capital and access to resources. Over the last several days, Black Founders called out the Venture Capital community for solidarity and support. The less than inclusive tech community has its fair share of discriminatory practices embedded within the core of its ecosystem. Black and Brown Founders know this first hand.

In a study conducted by Diversity VC most venture-backed startups are white, male, Ivy-League educated in Silicon Valley. 77.1 percent of founders were white. Just 1% of venture-backed founders were Black.

The Call to Action has led investment firms to open their wallets and fund Black Founders, including donating to nonprofits combating racism.

Andreessen Horowitz made headlines with the launch of A16z’s new Talent X Opportunity Fund. Although the fund was in the process some six months prior to the protests, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The program aims to train and provide funding for underrepresented Founders.

“This fund and program aims to fill a gap between the cultural leaders who have made it, and those who haven’t had a chance to make it. Entrepreneurship hasn’t been accessible to everyone, but the fact remains that being an entrepreneur is one of the most powerful ways to own your own future, to increase mobility across time and place, to invent new ways of doing things, and to forge a new system.” Andreessen Horowitz.

Unlike most conventional funds where investors are incentivized with returns and or equity, the Donor Advisory Fund, will ensure that all returns made on investments go back into the program to distribute to Founders who do not have access to venture capital. The fund will grow as funds are matched.

Naithan Jones, partner at Andreessen Horowitz clarified on Twitter why the Donor Advisory Fund model makes more sense than an actual VC fund. Through the Talent X Opportunity program, funds are allocated to talented, overlooked Founders to receive access to capital and a fair shot at reaching their maximum potential.

The fund begins with $2.2M in donations from the partners of Andreessen Horowitz. Ben and Felicia Horowitz will match up to an additional $5,000,000 total in any other donations. That’s a pretty decent start to investing in the future of underrepresented Founders.

One of the most unique aspects of the program is that not only can investors donate to the fund, but so can individuals who are not investors. It’s an ingenious approach to training and funding entrepreneurs who may not have access to a network of connected investors and are often overlooked.

So when is the “right time to apply” to the program?

First, your company can either be pre-seed or seed. Pre-seed means you have an “idea” or a product but have yet to launch an actual company. Typically pre-seed companies are still testing their product or ideas to ensure product market-fit. The Seed stage means you have a product and are already selling it. An important highlight to note; the program accepts tech and non-tech startups.

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