Leading technology firms support diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In August 2018, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz joined these efforts when it announced a new funding source for STEM initiatives, the Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF). This fund partners with celebrities and top investors to diversify STEM fields.
The Beginnings of the CLF
Andreessen Horowitz was founded in 2009 as a VC firm that invests in seed to late-stage technology companies in a variety of sectors: consumer, enterprise, biotech, fintech, and more. From its beginning, the company had a commitment to hiring African Americans for its workforce and providing financing to African American entrepreneurs. The company recognized that African Americans have made significant contributions to global culture, and that to influence future cultural movements, including technology changes, it needed to invest in African Americans.
When the CLF was launched in 2018, Andreessen Horowitz announced it had realized it could do more to diversify the STEM sector. As such, the CLF has two goals. One is to connect cultural leaders with up-and-coming technology companies. The other is to prepare more African American youth to enter the technology workforce.
Who Is Involved in the CLF?
Chris Lyons, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, leads the fund, while several celebrities and cultural leaders are limited partners. Featured limited partners are Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shonda Rhimes, Will and Jada Smith, Quincy Jones, Kevin Durant, Chance the Rapper, Nasir Jones, Will Packer, Edith Cooper, John Thompson, Robin Washington, Richelieu Dennis, and Shellye Archambeau. Charles Phillips is proud to be included in this group as well.
The CLF Portfolio of Investments
CLF invests in companies in the Andreessen Horowitz portfolio that are interested in working with the limited partners in the fund. Some of these portfolio companies include:
- Astranis, developer of next-generation satellites that provide internet access to underserved populations worldwide.
- Databricks, developer of a cloud-based data analytics platform to enable large-scale data engineering and collaboration in data science.
- Erasca, an artificial intelligence platform that uses machine learning to speed up the development of new cancer drugs.
- IncredibleHealth, a computer-based job placement and career development service for nurses.
- Knowable, creator of audio courses that help people develop new skills.
- Netography, a provider of cybersecurity software for organization-wide networks.
- Propel, developer of the Fresh EBT app, which allows users to more easily manage food stamp account balances.
- Tally, developer of an automated debt manager that helps users pay credit card debts more quickly.
- Wonderschool, creator of a network of in-home childcare and preschool providers.
Nonprofits Benefitting from the CLF
In addition to investing in companies committed to the goals of the fund, the CLF also works to increase representation of underrepresented groups in the technology industry. All CLF-associated fees and carrying costs are donated to non-profit organizations working to diversify the technology industry. Twelve non-profit organizations are listed on the CLF website as benefitting from these donations.
Two of these organizations operate K-12 schools. One is Capital Preparatory Schools, which operates charter schools for historically disadvantaged students: two in New York, located in Harlem and the Bronx, and one in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Eagle Academy Foundation operates public schools for 6-12th grade boys in Newark, New Jersey, and in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, and Staten Island, New York.
Several CLF-supported non-profits are involved in K-12 education. For example, All Star Code provides computer science education to Black and Latino boys and young men. Smash operates Smash Academy, a free, five-week summer residential college-preparatory program focused on STEM education for Black, Latinx, and Native American students at 10 college campuses across the country. Meanwhile, SocialWorks in Chicago provides in-person and virtual programming focused on spiritual, physical, and mental wellness for five-year-olds through high school-aged youth. The organization was founded by the Grammy-winning artist and humanitarian Chance the Rapper.
Other CLF-supported organizations focus on education for college-age youth. Career Prep, offered by Management Leadership for Tomorrow, is available to Black, Latinx, and Native American college students and provides 18 months of career coaching. CodePath provides college students who are traditionally underrepresented in engineering with access to internships at leading tech companies and free coding classes on more than 50 college campuses.
Finally, some CLF-supported organizations provide educational opportunities for adults. Dream Corps develops leadership and entrepreneurial skills in people from underrepresented backgrounds. The Last Mile provides incarcerated individuals with business and technology training. NPower offers free technology and professional skills training to military veterans and young adults from underserved communities. Per Scholas designs industry- and job-specific courses for students in traditionally overlooked talent pools, and it also provides career matching and career support services. Finally, Pursuit offers adults a year of free, in-person computer programming training, along with three years of career support.
As this list of non-profit organizations illustrates, the CLF is casting a wide net in providing assistance to those diversifying the technology industry.