Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam is investing in the futures of Black women entrepreneurs. She teamed up with entrepreneur Arian Simone to launch a $5 million venture capital fund to support startups created by women of color.
The Fearless Fund invests in women of color-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level, or series A funding. With a mission of bridging the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth aggressive companies, Fearless Fund is built by women of color for women of color. Since its recent initiation, the Fearless Fund has hosted pitch competitions at Facebook Headquarters & Spanx Headquarters with brand partners such as Coca-Cola, UrbanSkinRX, Bumble and more.
Through Fearless Fund, Founding Partners Simone and Pulliam are highlighting how diversity significantly impacts a company’s performance and potential to provide investor returns. In fact, a 2018 report released by Boston Consulting Group found that for every dollar of funding a startup in their study received, female-run startups generated an average of 78 cents in revenue while male-run startups generated 31 cents. Despite a greater potential to produce higher returns, women are historically underfunded–particularly women of color.
“The Fearless fund is designed to change the narrative as it relates to funding allocated to women of color,” says Simone. “We wanted to start small, that was with intention. We want to prove great returns for our investors,” Simone said in a statement, according to Hypepotamus. “I started as an entrepreneur in college, raising funds for my retail store. I was only 21 but I promised myself that, one day, Arian, you’re going to be that investor you’re looking for.”
In 2018, U.S. companies raised a total of $130B in VC funding. A mere 2.2% of that total went toward female-founded companies and less than 1% of total funding was allocated toward businesses founded by women of color (Fortune, 2018 & GirlBoss, 2019). This is not a “pipeline issue” or a result of a lack of VC-eligible, women of color-led companies. In fact, Fearless Fund already has five companies in its portfolio including Ellis Island Tea founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur Nailah Ellis-Brown, the first African-American female to ever own a beverage production facility.
In addition to a robust mentor program, the team is leveraging their network to build out an optional Celebrity Equity-Based Endorsement program for their portfolio companies. This program aims to quickly scale companies by connecting them with celebrities for influencer marketing campaigns.
The fund has seen abundant support from its advisers: Opportunity Hub CEO, Rodney Sampson, and The 22 Fund Managing Partner, Tracy Gray. Early investors in the fund include actress and producer, Marsai Martin (Black-ish), Atlanta OBGYN, Dr. Jacqueline Waters (Married to Medicine), Chattanooga VC fund, The JumpFund, and other notable individual and institutional investors.