Aperture VC Co-Founder, William Crowder, recognized among Black investors changing the venture capital industry

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Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a hot topic of conversation lately — especially among billionaires who don’t see the need for it,

DEI initiatives have been intensely scrutinized after the US Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions last year, and that’s had ripple effects in the business world. There’s been an ongoing backlash against corporate DEI. And that’s manifested in DEI departments paring down and legal action, like the ongoing lawsuit against the VC firm Fearless Fund by a conservative nonprofit claiming its grant program is discriminatory.

Funds like Fearless Fund and many featured on this list were buoyed by corporate pledges to focus on DEI more in hiring and funding in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020. But now, nearly four years later, much of that progress appears in danger of being scaled back because DEI has fallen out of favor in parts of the corporate world. Yet, billionaires like JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Mark Cuban believe diversity should remain a priority.

For VC firms with investments theses centered on backing underrepresented startup founders, many remain undeterred in light of the grim state of play.

“We will continue doing what we were set up to do,” wrote Claude Grunitzky, the CEO of The Equity Alliance, in a recent newsletter. “If some investors are now getting cold feet over our DEI mandate, over our focus on racial and gender equity, that’s alright. We are not shaking in our boots.”

Many other Black VCs are addressing long-standing DEI issues in the VC industry by slowly moving the investing needle toward more underrepresented founders who have traditionally been overlooked.

William Crowder, Aperture Venture Capital

Notable investments: Anonybit, Alaffia Health, Freeing Returns

What kinds of companies he invests in: Seed-stage companies focused on industries like fintech, enterprise, and consumer firms that leverage financial innovation.

Why he’s on the list: Crowder has spent a decade investing in diverse founders before co-founding Aperture VC in 2021. He worked as a partner at Dreamit Ventures, a Philadelphia-based pre-seed accelerator, where he led a partnership between Dreamit and Comcast to invest in founders of color. Crowder then launched and led a corporate-backed diversity fund for Comcast Ventures in 2012 and has since helped other major corporations like Morgan Stanley and Hearst do the same.

Crowder continues his long track record of investing in diverse founders at Aperture. The firm, which invests in startups leveraging financial innovation to help businesses and individuals thrive, now counts the financial giants FIS, Truist, and PayPal among its notable backers, Crowder said.

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Do you know of other Black VCs who started or lead funds to back underrepresented founders? Let us know by contacting Vishal Persaud at vpersaud@businessinsider.com

April Joyner contributed to a previous version of this list.

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