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Halifax-based Tribe Network raising $20M for Black entrepreneurs

CEO Alfred Burgesson said the fund could close by the year’s end and would be largely sector-agnostic.

Halifax-based Tribe Network raising $20M for Black entrepreneurs
The Tribe Ventures team: Ngutor Ikpaahindi, left, CEO Alfred Burgesson, Katerina Msafari and Deborah Sanni. TRIBE NETWORK PHOTO

Halifax-based Tribe Network, an organization that supports Black and racialized entrepreneurs, has announced it is raising $20 million to back pre-seed and seed-stage founders nationwide.

CEO Alfred Burgesson said the fund could close by the year’s end and would be largely sector-agnostic.

“There are entrepreneurs in our network that are venture scalable and are successfully getting funded, and the rounds are being led by Black-led firms,” Burgesson said. “But there’s not a lot of (Black VC firms), and they can’t fund every Black entrepreneur. “And so, we’re noticing lots of momentum, we’re noticing lots of interest and success, but we’re still noticing a big gap in the Canadian ecosystem.”

The move represents the Tribe Network’s foray into venture capital after hinting at the move for several months.

Burgesson anticipates a mix of institutional and governmental investors among Tribe Ventures’ limited partners.

Tribe Network programming has more than 800 members and has worked with about 300 entrepreneurs in the past year, a statement reads.

The organization has supported businesses, including Pilot X Technologies, a restaurant delivery service platform, and Halifax Charcuterie, which offers made-to-order charcuterie boards for catered events or at-home experiences.

Founders like these and those from across the country are expected to benefit from the fund, which will join two venture capital funds nationally that specialize in backing Black entrepreneurs — Toronto’s BKR Capital and Black Opportunity Fund, a statement reads.

The CEO said he is particularly interested in the Social Finance Fund, a $755 million pool of funds set up by the federal government to support non-profits, charities, and social initiatives.

Less than one per cent of the US$543 billion of VC funding raised by startups in the latter half of the 2010s went to Black founders, according to Crunchbase.

“Racialized investors and managers are more likely to invest in racialized founders,” Burgesson said. “People like to invest in what they know. If white investors don’t understand the lived experience of racialized founders, it will be much harder for them to resonate with the problems they’re trying to solve.

“By ensuring that our team is racialized and diverse, we know that we are going to be in a better position to vet the ideas and innovations that racialized communities are coming forward with.”