A World of Opportunities Hidden in Plain Sight

Kesha Cash ’10 explains her approach to investing at Impact America Fund, and the importance for entrepreneurs of lived experience.

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There's a big diversity push in finance, and particularly in venture investing, which is important. Diversity in the sense of more women and people of color who are managing dollars, who then have a unique perspective on how that capital is deployed, and ideally will invest in more diverse entrepreneurs.

While the diversity effort is absolutely necessary, and is needed, we also have to be careful that we don't bucket it. I was recently told that I compete with a firm that's led by a black male, which is great. His background and his lived experience is completely different than mine. His network is completely different than mine. We are co-investors in some deals. There are other deals that we'd probably never do together because of the investment thesis that we have.

The companies that we're investing in are addressing what we refer to as sort of shadow economies, where, if you're unfamiliar with how an African American hair stylist operates, it's gonna be very difficult for you to appreciate the innovation that our portfolio company Mayvenn, is employing around providing a platform for these hair stylists to sell products directly to their consumers. And if you're unfamiliar with how much money black women actually spend on hair products and hair services, you're not going to be as attracted to the model in its early days prior to it actually having the traction that your larger, more traditional investors look for.

We recently invested in a company, the company is ROHO. And it's aggregating spiritual content online, starting with the black church. And if you are familiar at all with the black church community and its importance over the history in this country for African Americans, from the time of slavery until now, it's an important economic impact engine in our communities. For us it's like great, you have a a great niche, we understand that, we know that's important. If you go deep into the black church community, that will definitely give you the traction you need to build this model out.

We're investing with that lens of lived experience, a familiarity with that market opportunity that others just don't have and they can't see.

We have portfolio of seven companies, two of those are women led. We did not invest in any of those entrepreneurs because they were people of color or women. We invested in them because of their lived experience, and their nuanced understanding of the business problem.

All of our entrepreneurs are extremely business savvy, have years of experience in the industries that they are disrupting, and they want to build big billion dollar companies. At the same time, they operate with a set of ethics that enables them to take into consideration the needs of multiple stakeholders. And they want to address a very large problem that they're familiar with.

We believe that doing good business will generate a competitive edge for these companies. I do believe this will pay off big, but I am doing this work because I really do believe that business, when done the right way, can transform communities and can transform lives.

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