Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Adam Kiki-Charles, a senior associate at The Equity Alliance. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Adam! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Adam: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! The Equity Alliance seeks to democratize access to capital by investing in emerging venture capital funds and start-ups led by women and people of color. In short, we invest in diverse investors and company founders. Many of the large companies we know of today (e.g. Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.) started as much smaller companies called start-ups that needed investment to grow. Historically, most of these companies have been founded by, and received investment from, white men. If we are to build an equitable society, it is important that diverse founders have access to funding. Over time, we can change this dynamic by investing in and supporting diverse investors and founders.
Spiffy: That is awesome! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Adam: As the son of immigrants with parents from West Africa (Benin) and the Caribbean (Haiti), I realized at a young age that the lack of information and resources could often hold ambitious people back from success. I'm personally motivated by the work we do at The Equity Alliance because we empower diverse investors who have already shown signs of success to build firms that invest resources in companies impacting our communities.
Spiffy: How would you say your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Adam: According to the Knight Foundation, of the $82 trillion in the asset management industry, only 1.4% of capital is managed by women and people of color. The Equity Alliance aims to change this fact. If you increase the amount of money that diverse investors manage, you will also increase the amount of money that flows to diverse start-up founders. This is a meaningful way to tackle the wealth gap in this country in a way that empowers diverse leaders.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community or audience?
Adam: This past fall, we held the first-ever Equity Alliance Summit. We brought together leaders of the companies we invested in, our investors, and the members of our broader community for three days in upstate New York. This summit was a special opportunity for all these individuals to meet. Many of them met for the first time in person. It was incredible to see the different connections made among individuals who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to meet. Beyond investing money into companies, we need to support company leaders in meeting people who will help them and their businesses to grow. We feel these connections add to social capital, and it is a major way that we add value to our investments.
Spiffy: Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Adam: We invested in a start-up called Esusu that supports renters in building their credit history while providing landlords with valuable data to predict payment certainty better. Roughly 40 million Americans don't have any credit history and can't even get a score. Many of those Americans are people of color or low-income individuals. An adult's credit score is essential to their ability to take out a loan to buy a home or car or even get loans to go to college. Esusu's business is about bridging the racial wealth gap by allowing individuals to build credit history through their rental history.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Adam—it’s been an honor!
Adam Kiki-Charles is a senior associate at The Equity Alliance, a fund that invests in diverse, emerging VC fund managers and start-up founders. Adam has prior experience in the venture space as a scout for VamosVamos Ventures, fellow for Alumni Ventures Group, and venture architect MBA intern at BCG Digital Ventures. Before entering the venture space, he worked as a senior healthcare IT consultant, supporting major US healthcare systems. Adam holds an MBA from MIT Sloan and a BA from Brown University. (Nominated by Evan Hamilton of Upfront Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on February 24, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.