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Excellent Black Investors
The venture capital industry has long been known for its lack of diversity, particularly in terms of Black investors. However, there are trailblazers in the industry who are pushing for change and making waves.
From venture capitalists providing early stage capital to hedge fund managers breaking down barriers, Black investors are making their mark in the world of venture capital funding and angel investment.
This blog post takes a closer look at excellent Black investors who are changing the face of the industry and paving the way for future generations, as they back African American entrepreneurs who have shown educational and entrepreneurial success.
- The racial wealth gap in the US is paired by a racial investment gap that heightens with age
- A number of Black investors, however, are working to reduce that anomaly
- These Black Americans are not only excelling as investors but also paving the way for the coming generation
The contents of this article are for educational purposes only. They are not intended to be a source of professional financial advice. You will find experts on financial planning and financial management here. More on disclaimers here.
Increase in Black Investors
For a long time, Black people in America have faced numerous challenges when it comes to accessing proper financial services. This has stemmed from issues such as racism, lack of diversity and inclusion among others.
According to the Black Investor Survey that was conducted by Ariel Investments and Charles Schwab in 2020, approximately 55% of Black Americans had investments in the stock market, compared to the 71% of white Americans. In 2015, 67% of Black Americans were invested in the stock market compared to 86% of white Americans.
The survey also indicated that older Black Americans were less likely to invest in the stock market than white Americans of the same age. Three times as many Black investors as White investors reported that they invested in the stock market for the first time in 2020, according to the report.
Despite these challenges, there has been a group of individuals who have set the pace in the finance industry and managed to overcome these hurdles. As a result, there has been an emergence of Black people who have made significant contributions in the finance industry.
Top 10 Excellent Black Investors
With a focus on Black investors, here are a few notable ones that have caused a disruption in the investing world.
William Huston is the founder and Chief Investment Officer at Bay Street Capital Holdings. Bay Street is an independent investment advisory, wealth management, and financial planning firm headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. The firm manages portfolios with the goal of maintaining and increasing total assets and income. Many advisors may focus on maximizing returns, but Bay Street place a higher priority on managing total risk and volatility.
He founded the investment firm founded after 13 years of supporting the United States' largest retirement plan ($650B) Thrift Savings Plan. He is recognized as Investopedia’s Top 100 Financial Advisors for 2021. In California, only two black-owned firms out of nineteen firms received this recognition.
In 2021, Bay Street was selected as a finalist out of over 900 firms across the U.S. in the category of Asset Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Ekenna is Bay Street’s CFO and Director of Planning. He works with institutions to provide them with customized support for retirement plans, from development through review all the way to implementation. Ekenna also leads Bay Street’s comprehensive financial planning strategy aimed at helping their clients achieve their financial goals and create generational wealth.
Prior to Bay Street Capital Holdings, he worked in the brokerage world for five years with Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade.
Ekenna is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and an Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS). He is a graduate of Black Hills State University where he completed 4 years of collegiate football with a double major in Finance & Economics and Behavioral Science.
In Scottsdale Arizona, he is recognized among the Best Financial Advisors for his responsiveness, friendliness, helpfulness, and attention to detail.
Arian Simone is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Fearless Fund, is a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, angel investor, author, and PR & marketing specialist.
Arian received her MBA from Florida A&M and has over 17 years of entrepreneurial experience: from pioneering and growing a successful PR and marketing firm to founding Fearless Magazine and the Fearless Platform in 2010, with a mission of inspiring millennial entrepreneurial women.
Her background has allowed her to establish significant relationships in the entertainment industry with billion-dollar corporate clients such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and more.
Arlan Hamilton is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital fund that she built from scratch in 2015 while she was homeless. The aim of the fund is to reduce the funding gap that exists in the tech industry.
Backstage invests in founders who are people of color, women and/ or LGBTQ, and have high potential. To date, Backstage Capital has managed to raise more than $15 million and invested in more than 170 startup companies led by founders who were underrated. In 2018 Hamilton co-founded Backstage Studio which launched four accelerator programs for underrated founders in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and London.
In October 2018, she was the first Black woman, who wasn't a celebrity to feature on the cover of Fast Company magazine.
Daymond John is a serial entrepreneur who was born in 1969 in New York City. He came from a very modest family but he started his entrepreneurship and investing journey early with a few business ventures when he was still in elementary and high school.
In 1992 when he was 23 years old, John together with three of his friends started FUBU, a hip-hop inspired clothing brand with just a $40 budget. FUBU is an acronym that stands for "for us, by us". The brand grew into a successful one over the years as a result of John's unusual marketing strategy. He offered free clothes to notable celebrities like LL Cool J, Snoop Dog among others and then used video and photo content from these celebrities to push his brand. FUBU grew to become a $6 billion fashion brand. Over time, the popularity of the fashion brand dwindled and John sought other profitable opportunities.
His next job is the one that catapulted him to national fame. He became one of the angel investors on the TV series, Shark Tank. Over time, he's invested millions in start-up companies. He's gone to become one of the most successful investors on the show having backed brands like Comfy Original blanket, Bubba's Q boneless ribs, and the Bombas sock company.
Aside from being one of the angel investors on the show, John is also a New York Times best-selling author, branding guru, and highly sought-after motivational speaker. John is CEO of the Shark Group, a brand consulting and marketing firm.
Greg Boone is a former American football fullback who was ranked by rivals.com as the no. 36 athlete in the country and twelfth in the state of Virginia, while in high school.
He got into angel investing after making his exit in 2014 with his former mentor, Donald Thompson. In 2015, he made his first move and started making small investments into a small company once a year. So far, he's managed to invest in six startups. When choosing which companies to invest in, he looks for strong leaders who are talented and coachable. He advises people to be comfortable with high risk in order to achieve entrepreneurial success.
As an angel investor, he's very keen on investing in companies that create more jobs and that are founded or serve minority or underserved communities. Part of his plan is to invest and engage with companies that pay attention to people, planet and profit. Not only do Black-owned businesses thrive, but it also helps to build generational wealth within the Black community.
Jarrid Tingle is one of the Managing Partners of Harlem Capital Partners, a venture capital firm that is out to disrupt the entrepreneurship space by investing in 1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.
The venture capital firm works with diverse founders from all backgrounds and is very committed to investing in early seed companies and businesses run by minority and women founders.
Prior to joining Harlem Capital, Tingle worked as a Private Equity Investment Professional at ICV Partners.
In 2019, he was featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
Kevin Cohee is a Harvard Law School graduate with a Juris Doctor degree graduate. After completing his degree, he went ahead and obtained his MBA from the University of Wisconsin. Soon after, he became an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney.
After working at Salomon Smith Barney as an investment banker, Cohee acquired a majority of the shares in Boston Bank of Commerce in 1995. In 1996, he went ahead to become the CEO of the bank. During his time at Boston Bank of Commerce, he managed to acquire several community banks based on their ethical lending approach and then incorporated them to create his new banking institution, OneUnited Bank. This move was in line with his beliefs as an investor as he strongly champions for financial equity, especially within disadvantaged communities.
OneUnited Bank grew over time and is currently the largest Black-owned bank in America and has eased access to capital to numerous Black-owned businesses, that would have otherwise found it difficult to do so.
He remains to be one of those investors with a legitimate social conscious and the drive to uplift people in overlooked or disadvantaged communities.
Lebron James is a renowned athlete and he's known for his accomplishments in basketball. Aside from being a professional player, Lebron has also built an investment empire, the most notable one being Blaze Pizza. Starting off with an initial investment of $1 million, the business has grown to over $35 million and he currently owns 19 franchises.
Lebron is also the owner of Uninterrupted, a digital media company and SpringHill Entertainment, a production company. In addition, he also owns a small share of soccer club and English Premier League winners Liverpool FC.
Mark Mason, is the current CFO of Citigroup, a global bank with an aim of responsibly providing financial services that enable growth and economic progress. He is also among the few first Black executives on Wall Street.
He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in finance from Howard University where he graduated with honors. Afterward, he went on to earn an MBA in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Mark became part of Citibank in 2001 and quickly rose through the ranks. Over the past 20 years, he's held a number of executive positions at the bank and other affiliate entities.
In 2020, he sprung to the limelight as he was among the first power players in the finance industry to speak out publicly about the killing of George Floyd. He posted a passionate and powerful blog that outrightly condemned the injustice and racism in the US.
He has been on the Board of Trustees of Howard University since 2012.
With an impressive academic career early on in her life, Mellody was surely destined for greatness from a young age. She went to Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs where she graduated with impressive grades.
Through the years, she managed to hold a number of managerial positions within the tech industry and also in entertainment. In 2015, she served as chair of the board for DreamWorks Animation until the company’s sale to Disney.
Hobson rose pretty quickly to a number of managerial positions within the two major industries that she serves; tech and entertainment. This position together with her contribution to the investment world led her to be named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015.
Since then, her focus shifted to the investment world, and currently, she's the co-CEO and President of Ariel Investment; a mutual fund company & investment management firm based in Chicago. She is also the chairperson of the Board of Starbucks Corporation as well as a Director of JPMorgan Chase.
Mellody believes in and heavily advocates for financial literacy among Black Americans.
Robert F. Smith
Robert F. Smith is the founder, CEO and Chairman of Vista Equity Partners. The company was founded in 2000 and it invests in software, technology and data in order to elevate startup businesses.
Smith was born in Colorado in 1964 and while in high school, he was able to secure his first internship at Bell Labs after much persistence. In 1985, he got a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. He went ahead and earned his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors.
In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs where he was initially assigned to work on mergers and acquisitions. In 2003, he decided to venture out on his own. His approach to investing is quite unique as it's a mix of risk management and strong social conscience. Since he founded Vista Equity Partners, the company has grown to manage over $73 billion in assets and achieve annualized returns of 22%.
In 2019, Smith made national news when he promised to pay off the student debt of Morehouse College’s graduating class. This was a smart move as it boosted Vista's profile. He was named as among the wealthiest Black people in America with a net worth of $5 billion.
Russell L. Goings
Russell L. Goings was among the early African American pioneers on Wall Street. He was born in Stamford, Connecticut during the Great Depression. His parents in Stamford, Russell Sr. and Rose Goings, had moved from South Carolina to look for better opportunities. As a result of these tough circumstances, he didn't do too well in school initially.
His teachers thought that he was a slow learner but it turned out that he had dyslexia, a disorder that impeded his ability to learn to read and write using traditional methods. His counselor at the time resorted to using comic books in order to engage Goings with text. He proved to be an able student soon after that and he even went ahead to become a skilled football player where he helped his high school team win two state championships.
In 1968 Goings became the first black branch manager for Shearson Hammill. Under his leadership, the branch went ahead to become a top earner for Shearson Hammill, according to Black Enterprise. He went ahead and purchased the Harlem beach and renamed it Harlem Securities. He also bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for $250,000.
In addition to being an investor, Goings is also an excellent author and editor. He founded Essence magazine and was the first chair. He was also the chair of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Serena Williams is considered among the best tennis players globally. Her career is just one among the many ventures in her financial portfolio. In 2019, Serena launched her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, . The firm invests in businesses that are owned by women and those in minority groups. So far, the venture capital firm has funded 61 businesses and counting.
A lot of Serena's investments have been made in the food, fashion, health and e-commerce spaces. Among the companies that she's invested in include Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange platform and Impossible Foods, a plant-based foods producer.
Using her personal brand, she continues to make a significant impact in the venture capital world.
Suzanne Shank is the CEO and co-founder of Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC. It's the top-ranked minority and woman-owned municipal bond underwriter. In 1996 under her leadership, the company managed to complete over $1.4 trillion in financings for municipal issuers and $1 trillion in corporate bond and equity transactions.
Initially, Shank studied STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and then she completed her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. After that, she earned an MBA in finance from Wharton. After completing her MBA, she managed to work at a number of Wall Street firms where she gained experience. In 1996, she decided to venture out on her own and co-founded Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co. The company experienced rapid growth and went ahead to become the first minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) to be a top 10 US municipal bond underwriter.
Suzanne has been recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as among the 100 Most Influential Women, Top 25 Women in Finance by Essence Magazine, and 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street by Women in Public Finance.
Travers J. Bell, Jr.
Travers J. Bell Jr. who is the founder and owner of Daniels & Bell, the only black-owned member firm of the New York Stock Exchange, was born in 1941 to a humble but very ambitious family in Chicago. During his younger years, he studied long hours and eventually he earned his degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and the New York Institute of Finance. He was able to achieve this milestone at a time when very few Black people attended these esteemed institutions.
He got started in his career as a messenger at Dempsey-Tegeler & Company, a Midwestern brokerage firm. Over time, he ascended to the role of vice president before venturing out on his own. In 1971, he co-founded Daniels & Bell together with Willie E. Daniels. Starting out, the firm had only $175,000 in capital but quickly grew due to a series of successful investment decisions.
During his lifetime, Bell made it his mission to give back to the community. Daniels & Bell specialized in underwriting securities for businesses that were minority-owned businesses and municipal bonds for small Southern towns. At the time, very few investors were interested in pursuing such opportunities. Bell found a successful market by providing services to individuals and towns that were largely overlooked by a lot of Wall Street investors.
In 1988, bell passed away at the age of 46 due to a heart attack. At the time the firm's net worth was at $15 million. His legacy continues to live on through his son Gregory S. Bell, an excellent writer and author.
Each of these investors is inspiring and not just because of the success they achieved in their chosen field. They have triumphed despite the difficulties they've had to overcome in a society that still has massive wage gaps by race, making their achievements even more remarkable.
What's more? Many of the investors on this list are also actively using their success to improve the outlook for the next generation, whether by offering capital to Black-owned businesses, through racial justice investing, or by improving the racial mix at their own institutions. It appears that many of the most successful Black investors are also those with the strongest social consciences.
Bay Street Capital Holdings
Bay Street Capital Holdings is an independent investment advisory, wealth management, and financial planning firm headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. They manage portfolios with the goal of maintaining and increasing total assets and income with a high priority on managing total risk and volatility. Although many advisors may focus on maximizing returns, they place a higher priority on managing total risk and volatility.
Our founder, William Huston founded Bay Street after 13 years of supporting the United States' largest retirement plan ($650B) Thrift Savings Plan. He is recognized as Investopedia’s Top 100 Financial Advisors for 2021. In California, only two black-owned firms out of nineteen firms received this recognition.
In Scottsdale Arizona, Ekenna Anya-Gafu CFP, AAMS is recognized among the Best Financial Advisors for his responsiveness, friendliness, helpfulness, and detail. Bay Street was founded to advocate for diverse and emerging fund managers and entrepreneurs. In 2021, Bay Street was selected as a finalist out of over 900 firms across the US in the category of Asset Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).