Oakland Black Business Fund (OBBF) announced the launch of a new Black-led investment platform to provide capital and technical assistance to Black-owned businesses. The platform includes a $10M relief fund focused on helping local Bay Area businesses impacted by COVID-19 and a $1B investment fund to support Black entrepreneurs across the country.

Founded in June 2020 by Oakland community leaders Elisse Douglass and Trevor Parham, the OBBF has raised over $150,000 of seed funding from individuals and corporations to pilot their model. As experienced impact investors, entrepreneurs, and real estate developers, Douglass and Parham are well-positioned to raise capital and deploy it to the Black business community. OBBF is working to deploy $10M in relief funds and technical assistance grants to stabilize 500 Black businesses in Oakland. The relief fund also prepares Black entrepreneurs for more substantial capital investments to scale their businesses and acquire real estate.

“We’re especially focused on funding brick and mortar businesses, which anchor the Black community culturally and economically and establish a sense of place for Black communities,” said Douglass. “By stabilizing these businesses and their underlying real estate, we are taking a critical step towards creating a new economic trajectory for the Black community.”

In addition to the $10M in relief funds, the OBBF aims to raise $1B by the end of 2022 to invest in Black-owned businesses and real estate. These funds will be invested in Black businesses and entrepreneurs across the U.S. to address systemic bias from traditional financial organizations that perpetuate the funding gap for Black businesses. Based on data from the 2018 Small Business Credit Survey, the Brookings Institution found that large banks approve just 29% of Black business owners’ loans, compared with 60% of loans sought by white business owners. In addition, Black founders receive less than 1% of venture capital.

“The disproportionate lack of access to capital is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Parham. “When you examine the underlying history of economic injustice, rife with barriers to real estate, healthcare, education, and employment, you realize that it undermines our growth as a society. This is an opportunity for our country to address a social problem with an economic solution.”

Oakland Black Business Fund has exceeded previous fundraising goals using a model that connects Black businesses with Black technical assistance providers, experienced investors, and technology companies. Current capital partners and technical assistance providers include Alliance for Community Development, The Clorox Company, and Okta.

“At Okta, one of our corporate values is ‘never stop innovating,’ and that commitment applies to the products we build, how we partner, and our social impact and equity work. We recognized Oakland Black Business Fund’s innovative approach to funding Black businesses as soon as we met the team, and knew we had to get involved,” said Frederic Kerrest, Executive Vice Chairman, COO and co-founder of Okta. “The aim of our social impact arm, Okta for Good, is to strengthen the connections between people, technology, and community, and we’ll only be able to do that if we continue investing in Black communities and companies. As business and technology leaders, we all need to turn our statements in support of Black Lives Matter into actions. We encourage others to join us in supporting OBBF to create further opportunities for Black economic growth.”

OBBF is the only Black-led fund providing business grants and larger investments that address the historical lack of access to capital and control of real estate. Its unique approach to building peer-to-peer relationships between Black business owners, Black technical assistance providers, and tech companies offers a sustainable growth model for under-funded businesses.

OBBF supports a broad array of businesses and nonprofits with a focus on scaling its city-specific model to other municipalities across the country. The fund is seeking investors and corporate partners to bridge the gap to their next milestone of $1M by the end of 2020.

Businesses interested in receiving capital or technical support can apply directly at www.oaklandblackbusinessfund.org/apply. Investors or organizations interested in contributing to OBBF can contact info@oaklandbbf.org for more information on partnership opportunities.

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