This month more than 125 hand-selected black VCs, angels, and institutional investors gathered in New York City for the annual Culture Shifting Weekend NYC.
The landmark two-day event at various hotspots across the bustling metropolis is the largest convening of black venture capitalists. The aim is to increase investment opportunities for this fast-growing ecosystem.
Andrea Hoffman, a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker, spearheaded the invitation-only event under her boutique management consulting firm Culture Shift Labs (CSL). Now in its 8th consecutive year, for this event, Culture Shifting Weekend made a pivot to focus on black venture capitalists.
“I felt like it was time for something new,” said Hoffman. “I thought what if we brought black venture capitalists together around solutions and solely focused on getting them more money.”
Hoffman has a no-nonsense attitude. She has little interest in handpicked attendees patting themselves on the back. Her focus is on bringing industry heavyweights together for big-money deals to advance investment for black VCs.
“I only care about the deals,” said Hoffman, a native New Yorker who was born and raised in Queens. “That’s what New York is about. That’s the culture of New York. We’re all about deals and before the ink dries we are onto the next deal.”
Hoffman and her close-knit team took just four months to pull it all off. She said despite her extensive network she was “blown away” by the number of qualified black VCs who are under the radar. “As we were planning we would get introductions on a daily basis to people who were actually funding stuff. Can you imagine the 75 to 100 people who wanted to be here but couldn’t attend because of timing or we couldn’t accommodate them because of space.”
Denmark West, the co-chair and co-host of Culture Shifting Weekend and Founder and General Partner, Connectivity Ventures, agrees. “It is surprising to see that some of these talented and accomplished investors are not well known even among their peers. We hope that this Culture Shift event helps to change that dynamic.”
The November 3rd opening kicked off at SAP’s new Hudson Yards office, where guests were welcomed by Deepak Krishnamurthy, SAP’s Chief Strategy Officer. The weekend was also an opportunity for dialogue and meaningful conversations. During Friday’s fireside chat between music mogul and legendary investor Troy Carter and millionaire businessman Mark Ein, there were many nuggets of wisdom shared by both men.
Carter, the former manager for Lady Gaga, said there are similarities in spotting great startups and recognizing talent. It all boils down to whether you can “pick people,” he said. Resilience, work ethic, a solid team, and clarity of vision are just some of the qualities and “intangible traits” Carter said he looks for in founders and pop stars.
For Ein, despite his busy schedule, he is still mindful of achieving work-life balance. “I really believe to be the best you can is not about working the hardest,” he said. It’s working the smartest. “You need to find downtime, you need to find reflective time, and I also think you need to find joy. A lot of people just work and work but they never have a good meal, they never to go a concert, they never go to a sporting event, they just feel like they have to work.”
Andrea Hoffman has a no-nonsense attitude. She has little interest in handpicked attendees patting themselves on the back. Her focus is on bringing industry heavyweights together for big-money deals to advance investment for black VCs.
An institutional investor panel followed the fireside chat with Neuberger Berman, BRAVA Investments, the Surdna Foundation, and JPMorgan’s Private Equity Group. The afternoon was capped off by a series of lightning talks by 15 investors. View the full list here.
Some of the highlights of Day Two include a fireside chat between Kwame Anku of Black Angel Tech Fund, and Hall of Fame athlete and philanthropist Alonzo Mourning. Culture Shifting Weekend NYC was brought to a close after a panel featuring corporate venture investors from GE Ventures, Verizon Ventures, Hearst Ventures, BCG Digital Ventures, and Advance Venture Partners.
The biggest takeaway of the conference was the caliber of accomplished speakers and highly curated attendees. Industry heavyweights and well-established VCs flew in from Silicon Valley and across the entire country just to be in the room. Prominent guests and participants included former Mayor of Sacramento and NBA great Kevin Johnson, Co-Head Managing Director of Technology Investment Banking for RBC Capital Markets Michael Carter, Boeing CIO Ted Colbert, and Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, among others.
Venture capitalists who attended included Monique Woodward at 500 Startups; Lo Toney, Partner at Google Ventures; Marlon Nichols, managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures; Charles Hudson, Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures; Shauntel Poulson of Reach Capital; Aaron Holiday of 645 Ventures; and James Earl Brown III of Arena Growth Partners, to name a few.
Moreover, against the backdrop of ongoing conversations centered on problems and inequities in funding for founders of color, Culture Shifting Weekend NYC was a breath of fresh air.
“This event is exciting because I’ve been investing for the past two decades and my own fund for the past six years and I thought I knew everybody who looked like me in this space,” said Erik Moore, founder and managing director of Base Ventures. To come here and meet people I didn’t know in this space is exciting and riveting. I look forward to working with all of them.”
Arlan Hamilton, the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, said the weekend is a gateway to create and redistribute wealth for underrepresented communities of color. “When I look at this room what I envision in five to ten years from now is absolute wealth among the people in this room and then the founders that we’ll all back.”
“As an investor, it was great to be in the room with many of the top black VCs in the country,” said Mike Ross, a seasoned angel investor who resides in Atlanta. “As you know, access to capital is the number one barrier to the development of black tech companies. If institutional investors realize the benefit in funding black VCs, they, in turn, can fund more black founders, we all can benefit. Culture Shift Labs is making a great contribution to creating a platform for these important discussions.”
Culture Shifting Weekend sponsors included: Royal Bank of Canada, Fenwick & West, Google, SAP, Vista Equity Partners, Boeing, Brocade, Infor, Square 1 Bank, Moet Hennessy USA, Cloudleaf, BCG Digital Ventures, The Williams Capital Group, GE Ventures, Gunderson Dettmer, HOF Capital, Lyft, Colonial Consulting, and Apple. UrbanGeekz was the official media partner.