Base10 Partners Raises Advancement Initiative to Grow HBCU Endowments and Catalyze Wealth Creation

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SAN FRANCISCO, May 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Building on their VC Diversity Pledge, Base10 Partners announces today that it has raised a new $250M fund with the mission of aligning the success of technology companies with wealth creation for underrepresented minorities. The Fund, known as the Advancement Initiative, is investing in leading pre-IPO startups and donating 50% of the fund’s carried interest, directly to Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) to create student scholarships and support university endowments.

Despite only debuting in March of this year, the Fund has already completed 8 investments into Attentive, Nubank, Brex, Plaid, Aurora Solar, Wealthsimple, CircleCI, and KeepTruckin. Each of the CEOs personally prioritized taking an investment from the Advancement Initiative in heavily oversubscribed rounds in order to prioritize the mission of wealth creation for underrepresented minority communities. Base10 will create scholarships in the name of each of these portfolio companies to fund the education of HBCU STEM students (i.e. The Plaid Scholarship, The Brex Scholarship, etc.).

“The Advancement Initiative creates a clear path for us to contribute to the success of underrepresented minority students who will go on to be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, and we couldn’t be more excited to be participating,” noted Zach Perret, co-founder and CEO of Plaid.

HBCUs are enormously important sources of underrepresented minority talent in the U.S. They confer nearly half of all STEM degrees for African-American students, yet all 107 endowments combined are equal to just 7% of Stanford University’s endowment. Importantly, about one-third of the student population come from households under the poverty line. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, HBCUs have $15,000 on average in endowment per student. Comparable non-HBCUs have $410,000 on average in endowment per student, demonstrating the comparative disadvantage of HBCU endowments.

“We have been thinking about where to focus Base10’s efforts to do more good through strategic investments, and we believe supporting HBCUs is the most effective way for us to augment underrepresented minority talent in Silicon Valley,” said Ade Ajao, co-founder and Managing Partner of Base10.

The Fund’s LP base consists of HBCUs with participation from other minority organizations and mission-driven foundations who all serve as part of the engine contributing to augmenting underrepresented talent in the workforce. Notable HBCU limited partners include Howard University, Florida A&M, Hampton University, and Tuskegee University, among others. This is one of the largest commitments ever from HBCUs to a venture capital fund. 

“With the Advancement Initiative, Base10 has built an outstanding mechanism for HBCUs to grow our endowments and give students previously inaccessible opportunities post-graduation,” said Frank Bello, Chief Investment Officer, Howard University. “Howard is thrilled to be partnering with Base10 to continue to increase HBCUs’ impact on the black community through wealth creation and improving diversity in the tech industry.”

“HBCU endowments have historically had very limited access to venture capital and other direct technology investments. The Advancement Initiative not only creates a hard-to-replicate, direct access point, but helps prioritize HBCUs in such an incredibly competitive asset class,” explained Marcelia Freeman, Member of the Board of Directors for the Florida A&M University Foundation. “We are so very excited about our partnership with Base10 and about the impact the team can deliver across our precious ecosystem (our students, our alumni, our endowment, etc).”

Notable partners for the Advancement Initiative include MacArthur Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Sorenson Impact Foundation, KFF, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The McGregor Fund, Plexo Capital, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Southern New Hampshire University, Bentley University, and the Kapor Foundation.

In addition to Base10’s founding partners Ade Ajao and TJ Nahigian, Base10 has recruited an all-star team of proven investors and operators to execute on the Advancement Initiative:

  • Jamison Hill is joining as a partner after spending 7 years at Bain Capital Ventures leading growth investments into companies including Cameo and Wonolo, and worked with leading companies FourKites, Finix, and Flywire.
  • Laura Weidman Powers was the co-founder and CEO of Code2040, an award-winning Silicon Valley nonprofit where she spent 7 years placing women and underrepresented minorities in competitive roles at companies like Slack and Twitter. Laura will be joining the Advancement Initiative as an Operating Partner.
  • Luci Fonseca joins Base10 as a Principal & Director of Operations for the Advancement Initiative. Luci joins from McKinsey & Company, where she helped establish the firm’s Institute for Black Economic Mobility. As a part of her work, she helped an industry consortium develop billions of dollars in corporate commitments to diversity, including skills-building and access, supporting black-owned businesses, and long-term financial security for communities of color. Prior to McKinsey, she helped develop the strategy for the $50M Salesforce impact fund, and served as the youngest Economic Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde (Strategic Policy Center).

“In high school, my father’s school district underwent desegregation. Violence from those opposed to the incoming buses of Black students and protests in response defined his coming of age, while he worked to overcome the academic deficit born of years of underinvestment in Black schools,” said Jamison Hill, Partner at Base10. “Going to North Carolina A&T changed his life. He landed a job at a pharmaceutical company—the company where he would spend the rest of career and, to his great fortune, meet my mother. I joined Base10 to lead the Advancement Initiative because an HBCU made it possible for my father and my family to achieve the American Dream.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining Base10 to build out the Advancement Initiative, to provide new avenues for wealth generation for Black institutions and by extension the Black community, and to explore the idea that—across many issue areas—venture could be a vehicle for capital distribution rather than capital consolidation,” saidLaura Weidman Powers, Operating Partner at Base10.

Together with the Advancement Initiative, Base10 is also creating the first year-long, on-campus training program for HBCU students together with internship & full-time placement programs. This program will soon be active on 13 HBCU campuses including FAMU, Morehouse, Spelman, Howard, Hampton, and NCAT. Base10 expects 400+ students will go through the program in the first year, increasing to 1,000s annually over the next 5 years, focusing education on software engineering, design, entrepreneurship, and venture capital. Base10 is working with the Black Venture Capital Consortium (BVCC) and recruiting engineers and leadership from the Advancement Initiative’s portfolio companies, as well as other partner organizations, to serve as program mentors.

“We were blown away by Base10’s innovative, unique and generous approach to advancing diversity in tech,” said Sam Adeyemo, co-founder, Aurora Solar. “Aurora couldn’t be more proud to be an Advancement Initiative portfolio company, and to thereby help create opportunities for talented students who will become the next generation of tech company leaders.”

To learn more about the Advancement Initiative, visit:

About Base10 Partners
Base10 is a San Francisco-based early-stage venture firm investing in Automation for the Real Economy. Founded by Adeyemi Ajao and TJ Nahigian, the firm focuses on Automation impacting many sectors of the Real Economy, including transportation, hardware manufacturing, logistics, and construction. Portfolio companies include The Pill Club, Chili Piper, Popmenu, and Pangaea. Connect via

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