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How this VC is helping black cultural power brokers like Shonda Rhimes and Chance the Rapper invest in tech

How this VC is helping black cultural power brokers like Shonda Rhimes and Chance the Rapper invest in tech
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]


Tech investment firm Andreessen Horowitz announced a $16.5 million Cultural Leadership Fund last fall that’s spearheaded by partner Chris Lyons and features limited partners with unusually high profiles, including Shonda Rhimes, Chance the Rapper, Quincy Jones, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. “If you think about who moves culture right now—from sports to music to art and fashion—it’s African Americans,” says Lyons. But often, these cultural power brokers have been on the sidelines when it comes to tech investing. With his new fund, Lyons is both introducing a new set of investors to the kind of deals within Andreessen’s purview and lending star power to startups. Its investments so far include Overtime (a digital sports-media startup), Wonderschool (which helps early-childhood educators open in-home preschools or day cares), and Propel (a free app for managing government benefits). Eventually, Lyons says, Andreessen will donate the management fees and carried interest the firm typically generates from such funds to not-for-profits that support diversity in tech. “The first step,” says Lyons, “is having these [high-profile investors] say, ‘Hey, these are things outside of sports and entertainment that can be valuable—we’re interested in this space, and it could be great for you as well.’ ”

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