Title: The Buck Starts Here: The Critical Family and Friends Round for Under-represented Founders


You may be familiar with the Black funding epidemic (~1% of VC to Black founders), but did you know that the Friends & Family (F&F) round is the largest inhibitor to this gap? Given the racial wealth gap, thousands of Black founders can’t access the F&F round ($23k), making it the largest inhibitor to the Black funding epidemic, where only ~1% of VC goes to Black founders (FifthStar Funds: https://www.fifthstarfunds.com/racial-wealth-gap). This session will address the importance of the F&F round for under-represented founders and propose solutions to addressing the racial wealth gap.


  1. The liquid wealth gap between white and Black American families is 21.8x. The funding gap is 21.2x. This is no coincidence.
  2. When founders do not have access to the F&F round, it impacts the disparity of subsequent funding rounds, leaving Black founders behind.
  3. If founders can access the F&F round and matriculate through exits similar to white companies, we believe over $5.2B in Black wealth can be created.


  1.  Stella Ashaolu is the CEO and Founder WeSolv, a platform connecting companies to more diverse candidates and leveraging performance data from real projects to reduce hiring bias and the Co-founder of Fifth Star Funds, an evergreen philanthropic fund investing in Black founders at the “friends and family” stage. As an MBA candidate at USC Marshall School of Business, Stella experienced the harsh realities of recruiting for strategy and consulting roles with a non-traditional background and limited network. It was there she realized the power of experiential learning and underrepresented candidates' need for access to real projects to showcase skills and reduce bias.
  2. Britney Robbins, social entrepreneur and executive is committed to investing in Black communities through access, education, and innovation — harnessing humanity's collective powers to create ever-evolving paths forward. As a catalyst for social change, she leverages entrepreneurial values to maximize opportunities for economic inclusion. Her organization, The Gray Matter Experience has connected over 1000 black youth to opportunities that propel their futures forward, serving as the paramount blueprint for entrepreneurship education across the country.

  3. Joey Mak is the CEO of Chicago:Blend, a 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to improving equity in the region’s venture capital industry. Under his leadership, Chicago:Blend earned the National Venture Capital Association’s DEI Impact Award in 2023, among other accolades. Joey has worked in community and economic development for nearly two decades, including as the head of programs for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Director of Innovation & Economic Development for the University of Illinois System. From 2018-23, Joey served on the board of directors for the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, a social services agency assisting low-income immigrants and new arrivals.

  4. Tim Huelskamp is co-founder & CEO, 1440 Media – an email newsletter that helps busy professionals stay informed in minutes. We partner with social impact brands seeking to reach our incredibly intelligent, engaged audience. Also co-founder of FifthStar Funds. Previously, Tim worked in the Venture Capital/Private Equity industry at American Capital in both the Technology Investing and Operations teams. Served on the Boards of: FreeConference, Jones Stephens, Egenera, and FutureLogic.


SXSW 2024



























WBC Proposals

SXSW 2024- See you there!

Translate »