BFA x build21

Where we’ve been. Where we are. And where we’re going.

How BFA started.

BFA was one of the first VFA Rise groups in Venture for America. It began as a way to promote overall diversity in the fellowship, and more specifically to increase the number of black fellows going on to found companies. The group worked to bring awareness to the structural barriers black entrepreneurs face while providing productive solutions in the form of recruitment, a support network, and relationships with industry leaders. A major win of BFA early on was the relationship established with Leslie Miley, a leading voice in diversity and tech within Silicon Valley.

BFA 2016/2017.

Over the past year we continued to expand upon the legacy of creating an optimal experience for black fellows. We focused on establishing relationships in tech and entrepreneurship, hosting events and webinars with industry leaders, channeling resources towards professional development, and exploring avenues for community engagement and fellow participation.

In particular, we wanted to explore how fellows could be more active in their cities as well as in the broader debates taking place across the nation. Given that many Venture for America cities have stark economic and racial disparities, we wanted to be a force for economic inclusion and responsible community development. We were particularly interested in how we could use our own resources and abilities to engage black entrepreneurs and communities in the cities we were moving to. Thus build21 was conceived.

The vision for build21.

Don’t talk about it, be about it.

build21 is a space to incubate and accelerate ideas that address needs and yield positive outcomes in the black community. The focus of build21 is on establishing strong relationships with local business and community leaders and developing products, services, and programs that address challenges faced in the black community. We aim to use the “disruptive” nature of entrepreneurship, design, and technology to drive positive social impact and economic inclusion.

The vision of build21 is to leverage existing and emerging technologies and industries to help black communities and businesses be more competitive in the digital economy. The goal is to be a hub for tangible action around these topics as they relate to social justice, equality, and place-based solutions.

Plans for the coming year.

We’ve been working on setting goals for the year, defining major projects and initiatives, and establishing a strong foundation for build21.

For BFA, we’re continuing the theme of supporting black fellows. We’re focusing on how we can support side projects and facilitate lasting connections with alumni, experienced entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We’re also working around a notion of creating a “soft landing” for new fellows as they arrive in their cities.

For build21, we’re focusing on a few core projects that improve the fellow experience and create tangible touch points with the community. Namely, we’re working on a place-based publication for millennials, a marketplace for black-owned start-ups and small businesses, and an event series that brings together creatives, entrepreneurs, and young professionals from all social scenes (s/o to The Happening).

Stay tuned for some exciting stuff in the coming year!


This post is the first in a four-part series discussing our plans for BFA and build21 in 2017/2018. The first part introduces the vision; parts two and three will expand upon these ideas as we continue to workshop them with a range of stakeholders.

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