Nashville,TN, (TN Tribune) – “Fisk University is excited to announce an innovative endowment gift from Acrew Capital and its co-founder Theresia Gouw, which combines $1 million in cash with a $1million interest in Acrew’s Diversify Capital Fund (“DCF”), the largest ever venture capital fund with a DEI focus (read more about Acrew’s Diversify Capital Fund in Bloomberg).
This gift is the first of its kind at Fisk University and allows the institution to, for the first time, become an institutional investor in venture capital, an asset class that has traditionally been reserved for universities with much larger-sized endowments and that has, as the New York Times has reported, contributed significantly to an increase in endowments at Ivy League Schools and other elite universities.
The Acrew Capital team has built a community of nearly 500 leaders, many of whom are from diverse backgrounds, who will be helping portfolio companies recruit diverse talent and serve as strategic thought partners to their entrepreneurs. The DCF signals a uniquely innovative approach to promoting diversity amongst executive teams, corporate boards, and, importantly, in the actual underlying ownership of leading growth stage technology companies. Nearly 70% of DCF capital comes from diverse individuals or diverse led institutional LPs, and Acrew has donated $7 million in cash to DEI aligned organizations including Fisk.
“We are thrilled to have Fisk University as an institutional investor in Acrew,” said Theresia Gouw. “We believe that the DCF is uniquely positioned to help diversify not only cap tables of leading growth companies, it also provides access and opportunities to Fisk who like many HBCU’s, have not been asked to invest in venture funds before. Five of the largest publicly traded companies in the US were all venture backed tech companies. These five account for nearly 20% of the total market capitalization of all US companies. Access is critical.”
Theresia was named to Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list, has been recognized nine times on the Forbes Midas List, was named one of the 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech by Time Magazine, as well as being named to the Carnegie Corporation’s annual Distinguished Immigrants List. She also co-founded First Close Partners, which invests globally in venture capital funds owned and operated by underrepresented venture investors.
“We are so grateful for this generous and incredibly visionary gift,” said Fisk President Vann Newkirk. It is also important to note that it was Fisk Trustee Ed Zimmerman, himself an investor in the Acrew fund and Theresia’sco-founder in First Close Partners, who made this exciting connection possible. The support of Theresia and Acrew Capital, has transformed Fisk into an institutional investor in venture capital and thus, a participant in the type of transformational wealth creation that remains crucial to the future of many HBCUs. Fisk University has experienced a major upswing over the past five years, and this marks the latest in a series of promising developments highlighting the Fisk future.”
Inspired by Theresia’s donation, Fisk Trustee, Ed Zimmerman (the partner in charge of the Tech practice at Lowenstein Sandler LLP in New York and an Adjunct Professor teaching Venture Capital at Columbia University Graduate Business School), and his wife Betsy Zimmerman (also a co-founder of First Close Partners), have donated $100,000 coupled with an interest in the Base 10 Advancement Initiative, another diversity-focused venture capital fund that is committing 50% of the fund’s carried interest to be donated to HBCU endowments. The Zimmermans and Theresia are previous investors in Base10’s Advancement Initiative through their fund, First Close Partners.
As Tech Crunch reported, Base10 Advancement Initiative directs “half the firm’s profits (or “carry”) to HBCUs to create student scholarships and support university endowments… [noting] HBCUs confer nearly half of all STEM degrees for African-American students, says Base10, yet all 107 HBCU endowments combined are equal to just 7% of Stanford’s roughly $30 billion endowment.” According to Business Insider, Base10 recently became the first Black-led venture-capital firm to top $1 billion in assets.
The Zimmermans worked with founder Ade Ajao, General Partner Jamison Hill and others at Base10 to make the gift to the Fisk University endowment, to enable Fisk to both become an investor in the Base10 fund and share in the fund’s “carry” (or profits). Becoming an institutional investor in Acrew’s and Base10’s funds are the first two venture capital investments Fisk has ever made or been granted.
ABOUT FISK UNIVERSITY
Fisk University is a highly ranked historically black university, according to U.S. News and World Report, and is the oldest institution of higher learning in Nashville, Tennessee. Fisk’s outstanding faculty and students continue to enhance the University’s international reputation for academic excellence. Our scholars continue to make strides in all areas of the industry from Social Justice to the sciences. A Fisk education prepares our students to become beacons in servicing the community and well-rounded leaders and scholars in their respective fields. Fisk offers more than 20+ undergraduate and graduate programs in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Clinical Psychology with a bridge Masters to Ph.D. programs through a partnership with Vanderbilt University.
For more information, visit Fisk.edu.