I Am A VC But Still A Black Man In America

The tragic events of last week highlighted the systemic inequalities that Black Americans have faced for centuries since our ancestors were forcibly brought to America.It is so important to understand that many of these incidents are the outcomes of a society that has systemically built an infrastructure of oppression.The methods used tie back over 400 years and are rooted in laws made at the federal, state, and local level; our economic system; our political system; our healthcare system; the media; and individuals and organizations that promote hate and division.

Recently, we have seen the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery as the latest names in a long list of Black Americans who lost their lives because of the color of their skin. The tragic loss would be overwhelming in and of itself; however, the loss amplifies the fact that we still do not have equal justice under law. In addition, we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of over 40 million jobs, both of which disproportionately impact the Black community.

Needless to say, my community is exhausted and unwilling to be patient any longer. As a result of the impatience, we have observed protests in at least 140 cities across the United States where demonstrators of all ethnicities, genders, and ages have peacefully exercised their constitutional right to organize and express their concerns. We have seen a small number of opportunistic bad actors resorting to violence and theft. Often, these unfortunate events occur in the exact communities that are struggling with the issues at hand. We must not resort to unlawful acts or condone them.

Now is the time for change, and it must come from the collective influence that those aligned with our cause must take. It starts with making it clear where we stand on these issues. I have received many notes from people that are not Black asking what they can do to help. My answer is to use your platform and voice to make a stand against racism. It does not matter if one only has hundreds of followers — use your voice to let everyone in your family, community, work, and political affiliation know that you do not support racism.

As an individual, it is not enough to just be non-racist — it is now time to take a stand both visibly and vocally in opposition to racism.

As a leader in a corporation, it is not enough to simply provide a statement of support — it is now time to identify and provide employment opportunities to the countless number of qualified Black candidates.

As a member of the board of a publicly traded company, it is not enough to have a narrow view of what a “diverse” board looks like — it is now time to move beyond your friends from elite universities and clubs and bring in Black board directors that provide new perspectives.

As an allocator of capital, it is not enough to invest in one company led by a “diverse” entrepreneur and check the box — it is now time to expand your network to find high potential Black entrepreneurs in your areas of investment and invest in them.

As a politician, it is not enough to make a statement or call the family of those directly impacted — it is now time to create legislation that will undo the damage of the past centuries to the Black community or resign (or be voted out) so those politicians that are capable can make the changes necessary.

Part of my passion is to see change within the venture ecosystem so that it can be more inclusive with GPs + entrepreneurs that better represent our country. That includes people from the Black community, along with other people of color and women. When I created Plexo Capital, I saw a strategy led by the ability to use alpha and generate above market returns. A byproduct of our approach is that the data shows that underrepresented GPs produce more diverse portfolios.

Again, this has been a difficult week of events to digest that shows racial injustice is still impacting our community. All of this has occurred with the backdrop of a global pandemic and the highest level of unemployment seen in a generation. All said, I am seeing signs of encouragement with the mobilization of those who want to see change. I hope this change can come as a result of peaceful demonstrations.

As President Barack Obama said in his note….let’s get to work.

Lo Toney

Founding Managing Partner

Plexo Capital

busy vc @plexocapital formerly @GVteam