“People don’t care about what you know until they know that you care”
I come into VC with a unique perspective. One that’s been shaped from my experiences as a Black man, as a coder, as a startup operator, and as an athlete. It’s important for me to start with my identity because that has helped shape my vision for the future. That future is diverse, decentralized, and community-driven.
The nation is diversifying faster than predicted. People of color will become the majority in the U.S. by 2045 and the biggest opportunity for outsized returns is in backing this emerging majority. Notably, the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs is Black women. These founders are building products and services that are poised to disrupt industries where they have been excluded or ignored.
I recognize my vision may evolve over the years, but I know my commitment to underrepresented founders will only grow. Having worked in Philadelphia for a few years, I got to see firsthand how the external perception of a city may not align with the excitement of the hustlers actually building in the city. Philadelphia’s population is majority Black, and I saw founders building for people who look like me. Still, as a Venture for America fellow, I also witnessed how their fundraising struggles were stark in contrast to founders who came from more traditional backgrounds. Instead of raising money from friends and family, they had to be more capital efficient, sometimes even bootstrapping their way to growth. While Silicon Valley has remained the global epicenter of technology and entrepreneurship, I look forward to a future where access to resources and capital is as distributed as hustle.
We are also living in a time of extreme technological progress. With lower startup costs, entrepreneurs are using technology, especially blockchain technology, to empower the individual and disrupt markets. I was first introduced to cryptocurrency in 2015 by a classmate using Bitcoin on the Silk Road. That’s a story for a different time, but I was immediately intrigued by the endless possibilities this new technology could bring. I recognize that certain ideas take an extra step of imagination to fully grasp, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a new opportunity (see image below).
As I see it, the main benefit of blockchain technology is that it cuts out the middleman. It uses smart contracts to allow the non-brokered exchange of information and digital goods. I firmly believe that technology platforms can build a better world, advance economic opportunity, and lower the barriers to entrepreneurship. Less than a decade later, the implications of both blockchain technology and smart contracts reach far beyond their original use in financial transactions. Crypto networks are now serving the unbanked, providing an income for the unemployed, and providing infrastructure for creators to sidestep extractive networks, management firms, and centralized social media platforms. I look forward to supporting blockchain-based businesses around NFTs, DAOs, The Metaverse, and more! A few superstars in this space include NBA Top Shot, Open Sea, and Axie Infinity.
Platforms like Spotify and Instagram have generated billions of dollars while creators only receive a small fraction of the revenues. Now, blockchain technology and creator-first business models are opening up new ways for creators of all kinds to monetize their Intellectual Property. Companies like Patreon, OnlyFans, Audius, and Metaplex are already capitalizing on the $100B+ market opportunity, and I look forward to supporting founders building in this space. Not only are they allowing individuals to build deeper connections with their audiences, but they are also making it easier for creators to make a living while doing what they love.
Don’t blink. You might miss something.
If the last 18 months have taught me anything, it’s that you have to lean into the future. It feels like the world is accelerating faster now than ever before. While I am focused on early-stage opportunities, I want to make clear that I’m honing in on 3 paradigm shifts that have the power to reduce wealth inequality. That is the diversification of our nation and of founders, the mass adoption of blockchain technology, and the future where everyone is a creator.
My VC Journey is far from over, and I’ll continue to share my learnings. If you’re interested in staying updated, follow me here on medium and on Twitter @darrensvision