Solving The Problem Of Capital Access To Black Entrepreneurs

Apple re-ups support of venture capital firm Collab Capital that ‘unapologetically’ invests in Black-led companies.

Jewel Burks Solomon recalled the uphill climb she had when building her tech company. The biggest challenge was getting investors to believe that she and her majority Black team had the ability to win in a competitive marketplace to make a profit. Unlike scores of other Black-owned enterprises, Solomon succeeded despite the obstacles.

“I faced a lot of challenges. That’s why I'm an investor today,” Solomon told “ I really wanted to become the investor that I never had.”

In 2019, Solomon partnered with two other Black entrepreneurs – Barry Givens and Justin Dawkins – who also started building their companies around 2012 in the Atlanta entrepreneurship ecosystem. After beating the odds to create thriving companies, they all decided to transition from business ownership to investing in Black-led companies.

Kelly Burton in a panel discussion at Web Summit 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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“We were thinking about what is the next problem that we want to solve. And for all of us, the answer was around access to capital for Black entrepreneurs,” Solomon said. “Since we were friends and talking about these issues, and talking about the battle scars that we had from our journeys, we all came to the conclusion that we should start something together to solve the problem of accessing capital for Black entrepreneurs.”

They went to work, throwing ideas about the solutions on a whiteboard, and launched Collab Capital.

For many years, Black entrepreneurs have not been able to attract more than 1.1 percent of venture capital (VC) funding in an industry dominated by well-connected white men, according to data from Crunchbase. Collab Capital is one of a relative handful of Black-led VCs raising money from corporate backers to then invest in Black entrepreneurs.

Collab Capital’s vision of focusing on Black founders raised eyebrows among potential funders who questioned the wisdom of that approach. But the trio was unmoved by suggestions to pursue a multicultural investment scheme because they knew that Black business owners are too often under-resourced, even in VCs with diversity programs.

“So we wanted to make sure that we were very clear about where we wanted the capital to go,” Solomon recalled. “The question was, will the market be ready for our bold approach in saying that we were unapologetically focused on Black entrepreneurs?”

Courtesy of Collab Capital

(L-R, Barry Givens, Jewel Burks Solomon, Justin Dawkins)

Apple funding

Apple became one of Collab Capital’s main backers, helping the VC to surpass its goal of raising $50 million in its first round of funding that ended in 2021. Those funds are now about 70 percent deployed to 33 investments in Black-led companies. Collab Capital now has its sights set on raising $100 million in its second fund.

On Wednesday (June 14), Apple announced the increase of its initial $100 million funding to more than $200 million over the past three years to its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative that supports multiple projects focused on education, economic empowerment and criminal justice reform.

The new funding includes an additional $25 million to Collab Capital, Harlem Capital and VamosVentures, raising its total investment in the Black and Latino-led VCs to $50 million.

“I think with these funds, the goal is for them to become self-sustaining. And so we view our investment as an opportunity to help them to grow and build,” Alisha Johnson Wilder, director of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, told

Wilder said one of the reasons Apple contributed to Collab Capital’s initial fundraising efforts is because the VC’s managing partners were clear in their mission to fund Black entrepreneurs.

What’s more, Apple and Collab Capital also have a mutual technology focus. “Technology is a space that we know well and a space that we certainly want to see grow and to see more representation. So there was a lot of alignment there,” Wilder said.

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After George Floyd

Apple, like many other large corporations, started funding diversity-focused VCs in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Corporate America collectively pledged about $340 billion by the end of October 2022 to address racial inequalities. But after receiving a record $5.1 billion of venture capital in 2021, funding to Black entrepreneurs dried up, according to the Crunchbase study. VCs cut their funding to Black-owned startups by half in 2022.

So it was critical to Collab Capital’s ongoing success that Apple and other partners continue their support.

“It makes a huge difference to us to have our new partners from fund one come back, it really showcases that they are excited about our mission,” Solomon said, underscoring that support from Apple goes beyond financing Collab Capital’s investments to include leveraging the tech giant’s networks and technology to help the startups in its portfolio.

Black business success

Solomon is proud to share the business success stories that Collab Capital had a hand in helping to grow. Goodr, founded by Jasmine Crowe, is one of the companies at the top of her list.

Goodr takes surplus food from restaurants, airports and other other food service operations and delivers it to people in need through a logistics system that uses blockchain-based technology. Crowe’s website says the company helps to solve the food insecurity problem faced by 54 million people in a country where 72 billion pounds of edible food is tossed away every year.

“Goodr is doing tremendously well. Jasmine Crowe is a Black woman founder out of Atlanta,” Solomon said.  “I'm really excited about what she's building and excited that we get a chance to be a part of her journey.”

Solomon is also proud of the success of Nicklpass, a new media technology platform that allows businesses to access 100-plus paid news subscriptions with a single login and single payment for an entire team.

The company’s founder Sumorwuo Zaza, whose parents started a political party in the West African nation of Liberia and were avid news consumers, gained insight into the news publishing business when he joined Huffington Post after graduating from Harvard University, according to CNBC.

Nicklpass announced in December that it was named to Fast Company’s second annual Next Big Things in Tech list, which recognizes companies making technology breakthroughs.

Looking to the future, Collab Capital plans to raise a billion dollars to invest in Black entrepreneurs.

“This is legacy work for us,” Solomon said. “We deeply believe that there are so many incredibly talented, brilliant entrepreneurs out there. Our tagline is transforming genius into intergenerational wealth, and that's going to take at least a generation to see the fruits, if not more.

“But we really are thinking about planting the seeds so that great entrepreneurs have the resources that they need to build great companies.”

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