The Community Fund
Published in

The Community Fund

From the Hood to Launching a Fund: Persistence Overcomes Resistance

Multiple worlds and communities

My story starts with my feet in multiple worlds. I grew up in South Central LA and my first home was a garage that my dad turned into a one-bedroom apartment. If you’ve watched Straight Outta Compton, then you know exactly how I grew up: the hood. The difference is that my parents shielded me from joining a gang — but I was courted by one for sure and I had a nickname of Panda (I loved panda-shaped ice-cream pops). I had teachers who supported me. One actually paid for my first computer, which my parents repaid in installments because, otherwise, I would’ve never had a personal computer. And that computer was where I fell in love with tech. Another teacher encouraged me to apply to Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, and I got in and went on scholarship. I left South Central to live in New England with a community that represented a microcosm of the elite world. My mom was struggling in LA, counting dimes and nickels to buy a gallon of milk, and then there I was in Andover, going to a school where royalty attended and friends took trips to New York on private jets to get tans.

South Central Los Angeles. Mom and me.

Community: We had an avocado tree in our backyard and when it was avocado season my dad would get empty paint buckets and fill them up with avocados for us and the community to eat. I would go door-to-door sharing our avocados with our neighbors who were grateful. Our neighbors did the same; when we didn’t have food, others would share theirs with us. Community, I learned, was important to survive and thrive. The community was something to take care of.

I was fortunate to graduate from college and land a good corporate job, which allowed me to help support my family after my dad died during the last economic downturn. That happened at the age of 23. It was really hard. I didn’t just lose my dad and have to help take care of my mom and my two younger siblings, but I was also diagnosed with pre-stage cancer. It was a rough time and I was just focused on surviving. Thankfully, through treatment, I defeated the looming threat of cancer.

Community: I lost touch with any semblance of community when my dad died and I had to step up and do nothing but work to make money. But I always felt the need to create and be part of one. In retrospect, I believe that I used The F SHOW to find a community to belong to and serve. It happened. The women I interviewed for the show became my friends and community. And they set me up for entry into the startup-VC community.

That project led me to a role working for a female millennial CEO in Silicon Valley. That opportunity opened up my eyes to startups, venture capital, and unicorns (billion-dollar companies). And I thought, “this is the world I want to be in, where I could make a lot of money and where others make a lot of money, too.” The problem was, as my CEO pointed out, it was really hard for underestimated founders who weren’t white guys who dropped out of Harvard to raise money and that the check writers were of a similar demographic. There weren’t a lot of investors that looked like me: Latina, 5-foot ¼-inch tall, and the daughter of poor immigrant farmers.

Breaking into VC

That put me on track to thinking: as a businesswoman of color, I want to serve my community and I see opportunity in founders that the industry overlooks which would otherwise produce outsized returns. I need to become a check-writer and invest in underestimated founders. I kept working because I needed to pay the bills but I started thinking about how I could break into venture capital. As I did my research, I was told that I didn’t have the background for a VC because I didn’t know the business, came from no money, and had no connections. It was going to be really hard to break in unless I somehow proved myself to the VC world. So, I took a big financial risk and went back for my MBA so that I could prove that I had the finance and business skills to do the job.

Dublin, Ireland. InspireFest 2018. The Backstage Crew: Brittany Davis, me, Christie Pitts, and Arlan Hamilton.

Community: Arlan Hamilton and the Backstage Capital Crew welcomed me and reminded me of my roots: supporting, growing, and succeeding in community. At Backstage, we built a powerful network across the world, positioning underestimated founders for success in the global marketplace through the fund and the accelerator. This experience solidified one thing: supporting our community, of underestimated founders and investors, was going to always be part of how I approach things.

Operating and Investing

I met with a lot of VC funds and again I was faced with a lot of, “you don’t have the background for this VC investment role,” and where I did find a good fit (where the firm saw investment in pre-seed and seed underestimated founders as a business opportunity), the salary was going to be so little that I couldn’t pay the bills. At the same time, a VC and college friend introduced me to one of her tech portfolio cos, and I went to work at Catalyte, a company that aligns with my mission of enabling diversity in tech. I embraced being an operator because, truth be told, while I like funding great companies, I also enjoy rolling-up-my sleeves and getting to build — especially when the company is in tech, about profit, and serving the community. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with it and I plan to be there for a long time.

Source: Twitter

Tweeting

Source: Twittter
Source: Twitter

Launching a fund

So, now here I am: I have an operator role and I have a fund to co-lead. I’m grateful that I can do both because to me that’s my ideal. In fact, Arlan recently asked me what I wanted to do in 2021, and my answer was and continues to be: work toward my personal mission of leading sales at Catalyte and investing out of The Community Fund. And it’s happening!

Call to action

I invite you to ask yourself, “what do I want to do with my life?” It doesn’t have to be startups or venture capital, but I recommend you be intentional in the goals you set because you deserve it and we only live one life.

Source: Twitter

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lolita Taub

About investing in community-driven cos + supporting our underestimated founder/investor fam. @lolitataub