How a16z’s Cultural Leadership Fund Is Putting More Black Dollars in Tech
Megan Holston-Alexander is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund. It’s the first VC fund that raised money exclusively from Black leaders — from entertainment to sports to business. The fund co-invests with a16z’s other funds and has raised more than $60 million across its three funds to date.
The overarching purpose of CLF is to create generational wealth opportunities for Black communities. It’s a two-pronged approach. The first is getting Black dollars directly on the cap tables of high-potential startup companies. And the second is creating a pipeline for more Black talent at early-stage companies.
Megan joined me on the show on the heels of hosting the first-ever Cultural Leadership Summit and announcing CLF III before then. Here’s everything we covered during our conversation:
[2:39 ] Takeaways from the Cultural Leadership Summit
[5:19 ] Building despite economic uncertainties
[7:36 ] High-worth individuals also affected by macro economy
[9:05 ] How has the Cultural Leadership Fund evolved?
[14:54 ] Difference between entertainment and executive LP’s
[17:16 ] Web3’s knowledge imbalance
[19:16 ] Megan’s interest in DAO’s
[20:58 ] Will CLF’s investment model change?
[22:42 ] How CLF used relationships and trust-building to scale its operation
[28:35 ] Megan’s vetting process with LP’s
[36:02 ] How VC industry at-large can create more opportunities for black founders and talent
[39:15 ] Has the Bay Area lost its monopoly on tech?
[44:59 ] What CLF is focusing on in 2023
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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Megan Holston-Alexander, @meghalexander
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[00:00:00 ] Megan Holston Alexander: What we hadn't considered on the executive side is, while the athletes and our kind of entertainers can partner on different things or, like, help them go into new markets, when it came down to, like, core operations or how you should run on your board, or how to think about hiring X, Y, and Z, our black executives, like, hold that information, like, in the palm of their hands. These are people who've been, you know, operators for 20 or 30 years, and so they brought kind of an additional level of skill and kind of insight to bolster what our other LPs on the more kind of athlete or entertainment side were doing.
[00:00:40 ] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.
[00:01:01 ] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Megan Holston Alexander. She's a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, currently leading its Cultural Leadership Fund. And to date, this fund has raised over 60 million, invested in over 300 Andreessen Horowitz portfolio companies, and has brought over a hundred black leaders into this space. I'm talking to Megan right after the Cultural Leadership Fund hosted its first-ever in-person summit. It was a pleasure to attend that summit myself and meet so many of the people that are friends of the fund, LPs of the fund, and really make it what it is. So this conversation, we talked a little bit about what it was like bringing that event together, especially after the pandemic. We also talked about how events like that fit within the fund's overall strategy and how that strategy has evolved over the past few years. For a little bit of background, the LPs in the Cultural Leadership Fund are all black, and it is one of the first funds to have ever done that in the VC space, and specifically, to date, a lot of the investors had been athletes and entertainers, but Megan talked a little bit about how they've expanded to bring on more black executives, what that looks like, and how that ultimately helps support the goal of the fund even more. One of the fund's other goals is to increase the amount of black talent and interest in tech. So we talk about what some of the opportunities are, what some of the challenges are, and what the VC community can do to help improve this even more. Great conversation, so many insightful points that Megan shared. I enjoyed this conversation and I know you will too, especially if you are an investor or you're a founder yourself. Here's my chat with Megan.
[00:02:39 ] Dan Runcie: All right, today we have Megan Holston Alexander from Andreessen Horowitz Culture Leadership Fund, and first, I got to say congratulations on an amazing summit. It was a great event to be a part of and to attend. How does it feel for you now being on the heels of that and just seeing the impact of everything?
[00:02:57 ] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah, so thank you so much for coming. It means so much that people would be interested enough and engaged enough to spend time with us away from their, you know, everyday grind. But we're really pleased with how it turned out. We were motivated because so many of our LPs had said to us, we want to get together, we want to meet each other, we want to meet the founders, we want to meet the investment team. So as an LP and kind of partner summit, I think it had the intended effect and it seemed like people really enjoyed their time, but also learned a ton. So I could not be happier. I will say I was telling myself that after it was over, I was going to have so much time to, like, get so much other stuff done, but, like, it just never, it never stopped. So, we were really proud of what we were able to put on.
[00:03:38 ] Dan Runcie: 'Cause I'm sure an event like that makes you think about what else you could do, right? I'm sure you had a bunch of people buzzing with ideas on what other in-person events or what other things could look like, too.
[00:03:48 ] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. And that's always the hope, right? We bring people into a room together in hopes that, like, we can help some serendipity happen. So many people in our network work on similar things or adjacent things or things that would have a really nice kind of partnership together. And so anytime we get to make those introductions, our hope is that people will be buzzing after, and have ideas for events and programs and partnerships. So we'll see what comes out of it.
[00:04:12 ] Dan Runcie: And I imagine that a lot of this probably had been in the plans for a while. It was just a matter of timing. So much of CLFs rise and growth had happened during the pandemic as well. And it was just a matter of, okay, when can you bring people together safely to make something like this happen?
[00:04:28 ] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. And when I say it was three years in the making. I am not kidding, because we were planning actually to host the first summit in 2020. So we were in process of like, you know, picking out venues and cities and where we wanted to be. And then, like, so many people when the pandemic hit that spring, it just kind of cleared everybody's calendars. And so it's nice to know that 2 and a half years after the original that the motive was still the same and the demand for what we were building was still the same that we got to put it on, I think, even better than we could have hoped in 2020.
[00:05:00 ] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I agree. And then looking at, now, you, of course, get to have it on the tail end of your announcement for fund three. You've now raised over $60 million for this fund. What was it like raising in this climate though, just given where things are with the market and how things have been so far in 2022?
[00:05:19 ] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah, totally. Totally. So when it comes to like the market environment, you just never know what's going to happen and unintentionally, you know, I actually got to raise ahead of kind of the market changing earlier in the spring. And th