Tom Still: Black and brown owned businesses are getting more attention; can it be supported? | Economic news


Suddenly, it seems, more and more people are intrigued by investing in businesses owned or run by people of color.

Maybe it was George Floyd’s murder. Or the COVID-19 pandemic and data indicating that some populations have been hit harder than others. Or maybe it’s opportunism driven by an influx of federal dollars into areas that could attract private funds.

I prefer to think of it as more about recognizing business opportunities that have long been overlooked and underestimated.

Overall, people who invest money want to earn money. They can be great citizens and care about the communities in which they live, but they are rarely motivated by philanthropy. “Return on investment” – ROI – is always at the top of the list, especially for angel investors and venture capitalists who regularly risk large sums of money. Because these investors lose money in seven or eight out of 10 trades, they have to compensate with a few investments that pay off.

More than ever, there are angel and venture capitalists, including private investors, ready to bet on start-ups that were not scrutinized a few years ago. These are often businesses run by people of color or women.

In Wisconsin, there are notable examples of investors who see such market opportunities. Generation Growth Capital in Milwaukee, led by former Commerce Secretary and Wisconsin lawyer Cory Nettles, was on the scene early on. Jason Fields and Dark Knight Capital Ventures have sprung up over the past five years. Alchemy Angels was formed by Dana Guthrie, who now heads Gateway Capital, one of the funds under the Badger Fund of Funds. Northwestern Mutual launched its Black Founder Accelerator, and entrepreneurs Khalif and Que El-Amin created the Young Enterprising Society, which has expanded beyond its roots in Milwaukee to Green Bay and soon to Madison. The El-Amin brothers spoke on November 4 at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison.


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