Yale School of Management’s Black Business Alliance hosts the first Black Venture Summit

The inaugural Black Venture Summit promotes the next generation of diverse entrepreneurial and business leaders.

Abel Geletta

11:38 PM, April 5, 2023

Contributing reporter

Courtesy of Ben Matheson

Yale School of Management’s Black Business Alliance held the first Black Venture Summit last Friday, awarding $20,000 to founders who identify as black and use their entrepreneurial efforts to address pressing issues in black communities.

The goal of the summit, held in collaboration with CTNext and Yale’s Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking, was to increase exposure to black entrepreneurs, founders and investors so they can learn and grow in partnership. Yale students and members of the New Haven community interested in entrepreneurship and venture capital had the opportunity to interact with successful black entrepreneurs, investors and other professionals at the event.

“The Black Venture Summit was an opportunity to celebrate founders who have gone on and actually built successful businesses, raised money and attracted venture capitalists,” said Mea-Lynn Wong SOM ’23. “It makes becoming an entrepreneur or an investor so much more attainable because we’re actually seeing the stories of people in the black community who have done it before us.”

Wong and Julian Love SOM ’23 collaborated with CTNext CEO Onyeka Obiocha to create an event to stimulate the business ecosystem and empower black people interested in venture capital or entrepreneurship. CTNext is a Connecticut state government agency that focuses on emerging entrepreneurship.

Love and Wong found their inspiration for the Black Venture Summit when they arrived on campus and began sharing their mutual interest in entrepreneurship and venture capital. At the same time, they realized that there were not many black people involved in these fields in the School of Management or in general.

Conversations with CTNext’s Obiocha in the fall of 2022 led to the idea of ​​creating an environment to support black people in venture capital and entrepreneurship. The team then worked together to organize the summit, which featured successful black founders and venture capitalists who shared their knowledge and experience.

“Right after that first conversation, we started working to put this thing together,” Love said. “We’re just super excited and ecstatic that Yale got some amazing founders, some amazing VCs, who gave their time and expertise and knowledge and held this program with us last Friday.”

Wong reflected on the importance of having an event like this to overcome the barriers and obstacles black people face when it comes to taking the path of entrepreneurship and business. This event leverages the resources and network of the Yale community to support the next generations of business leaders, she said.

“Something that’s common in the black community is that we may not have entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in our family or in our networks,” Wong said. “So coming to Yale SOM and you’re interested in this topic, you think about how can I … access this information or access these people, and you look at your own network and you don’t necessarily see that.”

While encouraging founders and visionaries to share their ideas, this summit also seeks to address the lack of funding and support for businesses created by underrepresented minorities. In addition, event leaders said they intend to democratize the venture capital process so that black entrepreneurs and investors can interact and share their ideas using available resources.

“There’s an opportunity to do more specifically to support black founders,” Wong said. “So I think of the Black Venture Summit as an event where people can come and learn about existing ventures, potentially pitch their startup and get some funding for it … And it’s an event where you start the dialogue about the lack of funding in the Black community for startups.”

The ultimate goal was to expand the startup ecosystem and increase the number of black-owned businesses, according to Wong.

Tobi Shitta-Bey SOM ’24 YSPH ’24 was part of the coordinating team for the Black Venture Summit and helped with logistics and planning. Shitta-Bey believes the event is a unique opportunity to increase the representation of black venture capital and entrepreneurship, which is not as prominent at SOM or in the industry.

“[The summit] really brought out that focus on black venture capital and black entrepreneurship, which I think is definitely not as important here right now,” Sheeta-Bey said. “Certainly something that we want to continue to build and really show that we have this community here and that we want this community to grow.”

In terms of future steps, Shitta-Bey, Love and Wong envision this event growing and becoming a platform to bridge the funding gap and advance performance in the VC space. They also mentioned the importance of creating avenues of conversation and building a pipeline of successful black entrepreneurs.

“A resounding theme at this summit, especially as we heard from different founders, technology leaders in capital, venture capitalists, like people in the industry, was that there’s a lot of entrepreneurship in the black community,” Sheeta-Bey said. “I think it’s really like addressing this funding shortfall [understand] what is currently being done in the larger industry.’

More information about the Yale Black Venture Summit is available here website.

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