R/GA Ventures announces its new Coalition Venture Studio to support Black Founders


Design and marketing consultancy R/GA is expanding its Venture Studios program with the launch of a new Coalition Venture Studio focused specifically on supporting Black-led and Black-owned startups.

The initiative is led by R/GA Entrepreneur in Residence Davyeon Ross, a Black entrepreneur who founded sports analytics company ShotTracker. The startup (which is backed by TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon, specifically Verizon Ventures) was part of R/GA’s Dodgers Accelerator, and Ross attributed much of ShotTracker’s success to connections made by the agency.

“From that perspective, I got this firsthand view of the power of R/GA Ventures,” Ross told me.

To participate in the Coalition Venture Studio, startups must be majority Black-owned or have a Black CEO, CTO or board chair. However, Ross said that it won’t be using a traditional application process, and it won’t be limited to a handful of startups.

“It’s not going to be cohorts or batches of companies,” he explained. “The thought process is, it’s an ongoing initiative [ … ] A big piece of this is, it’s not an application process, it’s a registration process. Once we work with R/GA to vet the companies, we can start positioning them for projects within the R/GA agency.”

In other words, assuming a company qualifies, they’ll become eligible for three main kinds of support through the Coalition program — creative capital (consulting, design, copywriting and other services), relationship capital (introductions to what Ross described as R/GA’s “network of incredible blue chip clients”) and financial capital (which could come from a syndicate led by R/GA Ventures).

This launch comes after last year’s protests over the killing of George Floyd led to a broader conversation about race and representation in startups and venture capital. Ross said he’s encouraged by that conversation — but at the same time, only 1% of VC money was deployed with Black entrepreneurs last year, and there’s a risk that the industry could move on without addressing systemic issues.

Read the full article on Techcrunch here.