Cover Image for BLCK VC + Diversity VC: Navigating the Capital Landscape Panel | LA #TechWeek

BLCK VC + Diversity VC: Navigating the Capital Landscape Panel | LA #TechWeek

Hosted by BLCK VC, Tech Week & Diversity VC
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Los Angeles, California
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About Event

This event is a part of #TechWeek - a week of events hosted by VCs and startups to bring together the tech ecosystem.

Join BLCK VC and Diversity VC for an insightful discussion on navigating the capital landscape featuring varying perspectives within the venture capital ecosystem. As the venture capital industry continues to evolve, this panel will explore the unique challenges and opportunities facing diverse fund managers and founders in securing investment capital and bridging the funding gap.

Founded in 2017, BLCK VC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization built for and by Black venture investors. We are dedicated to increasing the representation of Black investors within venture capital (VC) now and for generations to come. Through our educational programs, active community, and national chapters, BLCK VC provides the tools and connections to accelerate the careers of Black investors.

When VC mirrors the diverse demographics of the society in which it operates, all communities benefit. We are a community actively working to transform the venture capital industry to unlock the true value of diversity.

BLCK VC is the professional organization of Black investors in the U.S, which aims to close the racial funding gap through education, community, and data. Our members and chapters are nationally recognized as diverse leaders shaping the industry’s future.  By mobilizing the key influencers in the industry, we drive meaningful change across the VC landscape. We operate in chapters across the U.S., including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., allowing us to engage deeply with regional investors and startup ecosystems. Our industry-leading programs help aspiring and existing Black investors succeed in venture capital. We also partner with leading venture firms and mission-aligned non-profit organizations.

The Moderator

Shane Kelly founded Cinematica Labs in 2022, partnering with Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition to bring together 242 founders with 50 mentors. Cinematica Labs builds ecosystems for mission-driven founders, prioritizing founder well-being while designing for excluded communities in order to catalyze the economies of the future.

Shane's work has been featured by the LA Venture podcast, Google Developers, and Forbes. Shane serves as Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship for University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business where he teaches the Venture Lab, a course designed to guide students to make $50k startup investments out of the USC Marshall Venture Fund. He also teaches Venture Capital to emerging investors through his role as Investor in Residence for, after which Fellows are placed into paid internships with top Venture Capital firms including Foundry, Slauson & Co, and Bloomberg Beta. An active member of the tech startup community, Shane serves on the investment committee for Cap Table Coalition.

As a tech investor, Shane founded Wolverine Angels, an angel syndicate for University of Michigan alumni where he invested in startups including FEM Prizma (Acquired by Nielsen Gracenote) and Neurable. He went on to run investments for seed-stage Titan Fund, powered by CrowdSmart. The company’s proprietary platform combines human expertise and artificial intelligence to increase transparency and reduce bias in the venture investment process. Shane led 15 investments for the fund including Air and Syntiant.

Previously, Shane helped GreeneStreet Films raise several rounds of venture capital and build a slate of 20 motion pictures generating $250 million at the box office including Movie 43 and A Prairie Home Companion.

Shane holds an MBA with distinction from University of Michigan where he was a Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow. He earned a BS cum laude from Morehouse College where he studied Math and Physics.

The Panelists

Renée Rosillo, is a trans woman, with a successful track record as an exited founder and community builder. She is the CEO of Prism, a company focused on building safe spaces for queer founders through community and product-first approach. Prior to her role at Prism, Renée co-founded FounderFamilia, the largest organization for Latine venture-ready founders worldwide.

She also co-founded Minerva Robotics, a food robotics company that utilizes applied robotics to revolutionize high-quality food production.

In 2019, Renée exited her Open Banking platform, which offered services to multiple Fortune 500 customers, and played a pioneering role in creating a more open and secure banking infrastructure in Latin America. Renée is a On Deck fellow, and she began her career managing global interactive initiatives for the youth at the United Nations.

Taj Ahmad Eldridge is a 25+ year investment professional whose career has included high level executive roles in banking, asset management, alternative investments, and entrepreneurship.

Taj serves as Managing Director of Climate Innovations at Jobs For The Futures (JFF) where he’s leads a cross collaborative team focusing on the intersection of climate and workforce. The first project under Climate Innovations is the $25M 5 year project CREST funded by the Ares Managemrnt Foundation.

As a cofounder of Include Venture Partners , Taj focused on investing in diverse founders and fund managers who want to create innovative ecosystems in their areas - as geographic diversity is just as important as racial and gender diversity. Previously Taj served as Senior Director of Investments at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), Taj has built a long standing career with expertise in the fields of fintech, media, energy, transportation, and the circular economy.

At LACI, Taj helped establish both the LACI Impact Fund I (LIF I) and the LACI Debt Fund to allow cleantech companies to grow with diverse capital. These funds utilize an equity impact lens to encourage invested companies to have environmental, economic, and social impact - particularly on increasing the number of underrepresented voices in the cleantech industry. In addition, Taj created programs such as LACI Investor Talks (LIT), the LACI Investor in Residence program, and the Player to CEO Athlete-Investor Impact Summit Series with JP Morgan Chase. Taj has been named one of the 53 Investors to Watch in 2021 by Pitchbook & 101 Black Titans in Tech while nurturing and building a team of investment activists.

Prior to LACI, Taj was the Director for the Incubator at the University of California in Riverside, California. During his tenure as Director, Taj’s team brought a $10M venture fund (Highlander Fund) to the Inland Empire - the first for the region. Because of Taj’s focus on blending entertainment, policy, and entrepreneurship, the region was named the #4 city in the United States for minority entrepreneurs via Entrepreneur Magazine.

Taj began his career as a banker and economist with Wells Fargo Bank, UBS Investment Bank, and TRW Investments. Taj has also been a Founder, Board Member, and Investor in companies such as NCX, Bevy, BlocPower, ILTG Media, Boswell Official Apparel, Voter, Xtopoly, Rookielook, iListen, KYC Hospitality, KIGT, Majira Project, CleanTek Capital and ConCreates. Taj also serves on the Climate Finance Advisory Team of the Community Investment Guarantee Pool (CIGP), the Executive Board of the Homeboy Ventures Fund, The Majira Project, and Advisory Board of VC Include.

Taj has been profiled in publications such as Impact Alpha, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pitchbook, Forbes, GreenBiz, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more regarding his tireless efforts on achieving alpha while also advancing equity.

Taj has undergraduate degrees in poetry & literature and graduate geopolitical economics from Texas A&M University-Commerce, Pepperdine University, and Claremont Graduate University. Taj also studied abroad at The Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Santiago, Chile, The Universidad Do Porto in Porto, Portugal, and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in Hong Kong, China.

Taj is an avid audiobook bibliophile and a lover of music of all genres.

La Keisha Landrum Pierre is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at Emmeline Ventures, an early-stage VC fund, where she invests in healthcare, fintech, and sustainability solutions built by female founders. She invests in the most promising female founders across these sectors and has spent the last 13+ years building world-class operational teams, infusing strategic excellence and scalability into impact focused companies.

Prior to Emmeline Ventures, La Keisha was the Managing Director of NLA Ventures, an early stage fund where she also invested in healthcare, sustainability and cybersecurity. Prior to NLA Ventures, La Keisha built a career working at the intersection of tech, impact, and digital media.

As the CEO of one Nigeria's largest digital media start-ups, Sahara Reporters Media Group, La Keisha built and scaled the first civic media platform of its kind. With venture backing for an African company when Africa was an overlooked market, she grew the company from 2MM to 50MM monthly users, positioning it for investment by impact funds, and raising millions in funding.

She partnered with the Omidyar Network, MacArthur, Google and Bloomberg Philanthropies to found the first of its kind Civic Media Lab, Lagos with support from the MIT Center for Civic Media. There, she was the Executive Director and today sits on the board of the Civic Media Lab, Nigeria. She is also now the Chairwoman of Sahara Reporters.

La Keisha is a 2x founder of Harvard Innovation Lab incubated start-ups and was a deep-tech researcher at the Youth and Media Group at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center where she studied the intersection of digital and media literacies for youth. La Keisha brings domain expertise in building and scaling impact-driven companies, taking complex business challenges and designing solutions that create lasting financial and social change in the world.

Nehemiah Green serves as the Global Partnerships lead for AWS' Underrepresented Founder Startup Business Development (URF BD) team, where he leverages his expertise to promote equity in the entrepreneurial landscape. He plays a critical role in developing strategic partnerships to support underrepresented founders and investors, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to fostering success for all.

In his role at AWS, Nehemiah contributes significantly to the company's longstanding commitment to supporting startups. His work with the URF BD team involves forging early relationships with underrepresented founders, accelerating businesses that are often overlooked by traditional venture capital. Through partnerships with VCs, incubators, accelerators, and others, he ensures underrepresented founders receive the guidance, support, and infrastructure necessary to build successful, disruptive businesses.

Prior to his role at AWS, Nehemiah distinguished himself at Handshake and Patreon, leading strategic initiatives that resulted in successful product integrations and new market partnerships. His work at Code2040, advising startup CEOs on diversity and inclusion best practices and building partnerships with Fortune 50 companies like Goldman Sachs, Spotify, and the New York Times, further underscored his ability to drive meaningful change.

Nehemiah holds an Ed.M from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA from Tufts University. His educational background and professional experience inform his mission to democratize entrepreneurship, ensuring that founders, regardless of their background or location, have the resources they need to succeed.


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