Progressive investors are injecting money into service-based consulting businesses led by people of color with an eye toward building a “movement” that will live beyond 2020.
After publishing a list of 19 companies and groups to watch in August, the progressive incubator New Media Ventures (NMV) on Wednesday unveiled a cohort of 14 that will split $1.3 million in grant funding. In a release, NMV said that 76 percent of founders in this cohort are Black, Indigenous and people of color and 46 percent of recipient organizations are Black-led.
In addition to supporting advocacy efforts in a socially distanced world, NMV President Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said they selected recipients who could help build a social justice movement.
“I think we’re going to come out of this election year with a lot of newly politicized people who are, for the first time, ready to be engaged in an off-cycle year,” she told C&E. “The leaders in this cohort are applying cutting-edge organizing, advocacy, and technology strategies to building the strongest progressive movement possible.”
Despite the enthusiasm on the left for a movement to counter the one inspired by President Trump, this funding round falls short of previous cohorts. For instance, in July 2019, NMV unveiled a $1.5 million round of seed funding for 17 companies and organizations operating in campaigns, advocacy, and civic engagement. Still, Shannon Baker, NMV’s managing director, said that reaching $1.3 million was an accomplishment given that the results of the 2020 election could have cut either way.
“In a big election, a ton of energy and a ton of money is directed to the immediate win. We ran a risk of people taking their marbles and going home — either because they were disheartened or because they felt the mission was accomplished,” she said.
“But [NMV] was founded to always keep an eye on the long game. I feel really thrilled with the number of donors, both individuals, and institutions, that stepped up and, in some cases, gave again to make sure that we were positioned to fund this wave of innovation.”
One of the recipients was Andre Banks’ firm A/B Partners, which has carved out a niche promoting social justice leaders and combating disinformation targeted at voters of color. In August, Banks told C&E he was hopeful that his company could demonstrate that service-based consultancies are scalable.
“There are more ways to scale impact than through a SAS product,” he said. “There are a lot of different versions of extremely successful growth businesses and sometimes those businesses are service businesses who traditionally get a bad rap from traditional VCs.”
The other recipients include Algorithmic Justice League, Climate Cabinet, Deck, Indiegraf, Juggernaut, Momentum, Open Field; Project Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations; Three Point Strategies, RAHEEM, Rapid Response, Smoke Sygnals, and TILA.