There has to be a better way. You can always do more. When faced with what feels like an insurmountable challenge, I refer back to the messages my dad shared with me as a child and which he continues to reiterate to this day.
Growing up in Maryland as an African American in the post-Civil Rights era, I was afforded opportunities that just a decade before were off limits for Americans that looked like me and unimaginable for my ancestors shackled by slavery. I went to great public schools and excelled at sports, which positioned me to attend Stanford University and embark on a successful professional career. Personal journeys are rarely linear. Every day has not been filled with rainbows and roses, but by most measures, I’ve experienced an over-sized slice of the American pie.
The good fortune associated with the timing of my birth and the circumstances of my upbringing have never been lost on me. I stand firmly on the shoulders of giants. Therefore, throughout my professional career I have sought out opportunities to give back, including helping to start high-performing schools in low-income communities at the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Foundation, serving as the Executive Director of All Stars Helping Kids, and helping to oversee the HP Company Foundation. Now at Nex Cubed, I’ve worked to create an inclusive culture that values diversity. Many of our founders come to us having raised money from friends, family, and angel investors which impacts the composition of our funnel. Even so, more than 50% of our portfolio is led by females and minorities. There are certainly enough companies led by underrepresented founders to invest in, but as my dad taught me, enough is a relative term.
Marlon Evans & HP Company Foundation, Computer Donation to Eastside College Prep (school in East Palo Alto, CA)
I live in Silicon Valley where you can throw a baseball in any direction and likely hit someone involved with a startup. In my neighborhood, access to capital and to people who can help you scale a technology startup is bountiful. Clearly that is not the case everywhere in the US. There are a lot of great organizations like Revolution that are addressing the access issue through a geographic lens while groups such as HBCUvc and Black Venture Capital Consortium are focused specifically on support for African Americans. One of our portfolio companies, Divercity, a mobile-first job platform dedicated to building the world’s largest minority professional hub, is connecting underrepresented professionals with diverse-minded companies. With these types of efforts as a guide, this Juneteenth, Nex Cubed doubled down on its diversity and inclusion efforts by launching a HBCU Founder’s program.
The goal of the program is to inspire thousands of HBCU students to pursue entrepreneurship related to key social determinants including housing, education, financial inclusion, and health. Nex Cubed will provide the students with access to the financial and advisory resources necessary to go from idea to IPO. While we have the infrastructure in place to make our goal a reality, we recognize the need for partnerships that help us extend our reach and amplify our impact.
A special thanks to AT&T for believing in our vision and locking arms with us. If the company you work for is looking for a programmatic way to identify diverse talent, support entrepreneurship, and activate its employee base via mentoring and speaking opportunities, we would love to speak with you. Together we can find a better way and accomplish even more.
Marlon Evans is the CEO at Nex Cubed.