Westbound Equity Partners announces $100 million fund for underrepresented founders

BY Preta Peace Namasaba April 15, 2024 3:39 PM EDT
Sean Mendy. Photo credit: Westbound Equity Partners

Westbound Equity Partners, a Black-led venture capital firm, has recently closed a $100 million fund to support Black, Latin, and diversity-driven founders. The establishment of Fund II marks a significant step towards addressing the historical underrepresentation of particular demographics in the tech industry. It also reinforces Westbound’s position as a major player in the venture capital ecosystem.

“We aren’t investing in underrepresented founders as this altruistic thing. This fund is about investing in the best companies and performance. Explicit impact is what we’re doing on the foundation side. If we can make the next Yahoo, the next LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google diverse in those early days, then the folks that build wealth are going to be more diverse, and they’re going to have the opportunity to go out and be deemed more investable as founders or become investors themselves. It transforms this vicious homogeneous cycle into a virtuous one that compounds over time,” Sean Mendy, co-founding partner at Westbound Equity Partners told Forbes.

By focusing on startups that are serving their communities, the firm recognizes the untapped potential residing within underrepresented markets. Its strategic investment in these areas serves to illustrate a commitment to altering the status quo and fostering an environment where diverse perspectives thrive. With the newly launched $100 million fund, Westbound intends to make bigger placements and funding for startups during their early stages of development. It has already started deploying capital from Fund II to companies such as Sierra and Mon Ami.

The firm has an extensive track record of funding strong companies with underrepresented founders. From an initial fund that totaled $25 million, Westbound managed to invest in over 40 startups as well as tap into “the diversity opportunity,” which provides capital to underrepresented founders, especially Black and Latino companies. It has backed minority founder-led startups such as  Esusu, a Black-led unicorn, PlanetFWD, Altro, and Syndio.

In addition to launching Fund II, the firm announced its new name – Westbound Equity Partners. The new name is derived from the American West, a symbol for imaginative new beginnings such as the Gold Rush and the Great Migration to Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Founded as Concrete Rose Capital in 2019, the firm set out with the vision “to close the racial wealth gap by building a virtuous cycle of wealth and opportunity by investing financial and social capital into exceptional founders and ventures led by, solving problems for, or built with underrepresented people of color”. This evolved identity embodies its founding purpose and future aspirations.

““Heading West” has long been a symbolic aspiration for being a pioneer, creating community, and building a better future. Westbound reflects an ethos that our firm and our founders embrace: a shared belief and commitment to reimagining the world around us. For the Black community, “heading Westbound” carries special historical meaning—a chance to start anew and create a life of freedom and belonging,” Westbound Equity Partners explained the essence behind its new name.

Westbound’s approach extends beyond its initial investment in startups. The firm is deeply invested in the success of its portfolio companies and offers a suite of support services that underscore its commitment to building enduring relationships. It provides mentorship and guidance from experienced industry leaders, networking opportunities, and its Westbound Network, an ecosystem of advisors, LPs, and fellow entrepreneurs that fosters a sense of community and collaboration.

The investment firm has also put together an all-star network of operators and investors who can support their portfolio companies, including Jeff Weiner and Andre Iguodala. This supplements the leadership team’s already impressive backgrounds. Westbound Equity Partners is spearheaded by co-founding partner Sean Mendy who was previously a venture partner at Next Play Ventures and EIR at Sixth Street. A Cornell and Stanford, he served as an executive at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula and an advisor to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.