Black Angel Group, started at Google, scales into a cross-company investing club

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Jackson Georges Jr. joined Google’s New York office in 2015 on its human resources team. He learned the job, then sought out the Black Googler Network, one of the company’s employee resource groups—communities where employees of similar backgrounds gather for networking and support and sometimes to bring perspective on core business initiatives from hiring to user experience.

Six years later, he’s pushing new boundaries in the tech industry. Georges was among a group of about two dozen who started an independent angel-investing collective inside Google called the Black Angel Group. The pitch: to extend the internal success of high-level Google employees and invest in Black startup founders that continue to receive a sliver of the funding available.
“People think about ERGs as the development that the employee gets,” Georges said. But he came to believe participation went the other way. As he became the lead for the Black Googler Network in the city, his thoughts coalesced around what he could do for the wider community. “It’s about our ability to give back, because we recognize the privilege we have in the space as Black Googlers,” he said.

That inkling followed Georges as he built his career at Google, now Alphabet. Eventually he co-led the New York Black Googler Network. He is now based in the Bay Area as a partner at Alphabet’s independent growth firm, CapitalG. 

In a little more than a year, the Black Angel Group has helped deploy that internal talent and money outward. It has grown from 25 members to 150. Although independent from Google, the company has supported the Black Angels’ efforts to scale.

“Think of it as a flywheel of perspective,” said Bonita Stewart, another founding member who is board partner at Alphabet’s early-stage artificial intelligence-focused venture fund, Gradient Ventures, which is based at Google’s office in Chelsea. “When founders start early in terms of diversifying their cap tables”—their list of investors—“it offers them a clear trajectory for diversification.”

Black venture-backed founders close only about 1% of funding deals; just 4% of venture capitalists are Black. Inside tech companies, representation is somewhat larger—Black professionals account for about 8% of tech workers. 
“When I think about Googlers who are making a difference, they’re thinking, ‘How can I take the combination of my professional expertise and lived experience and create a resource to support others?’ ” said Jonathan Priester, global community inclusion lead at Google’s New York office. 
The Black Angel Group made its latest advance in early May, opening up membership to Black employees at a group of high-performing tech companies. So far, the collective has sourced and screened 500 early-stage startups; members have invested more than $2 million in 22 deals so far.
Like other angel collectives, the group pools resources to screen pitches and help founders. Each member is on a team that tackles one part of the operation, from sourcing potential deals to evaluating proposals. On Friday mornings, the full group can join conversations with founders. Later, interested individual members make investments, sometimes in partnership with venture-capital funds.

Members with relevant experience from Black Angels then provide operational support to the portfolio. The networks of the group members are often more diverse than the startup norm, thanks to relationships built in college and at ERGs at Google or previous companies. There is not a mission to invest only in minority-owned companies, but so far half of the founders of the group’s portfolio are from groups underrepresented in the startup world.
“The true mission is about increasing black capital and black investors in the ecosystem,” Georges said.
The result is that a founder’s earliest investors are tech executives at the top of their field, whether in venture capital, engineering, product, design, human resources, sales or go-to-market, “who happen to be Black,” Georges said. The set-up offers a combination of inclusivity, access to skills and access to capital that they might not find in many other boardrooms. As in other boardrooms, the underlying mission is not philanthropic.
“We are investing for financial returns,” Georges said, “always with the goal of increasing financial return for our members.”