Design and marketing consultancy R / GA is expanding its Alliance Studio program, focusing specifically on supporting Black-LED and Black-owned startups.
The initiative is led by R / GA Entrepreneur in Residence Davion Ross, a black entrepreneur who founded the sports analytics company ShotTracker. The startup (which is backed by ClearTips’s parent company Verizon, specifically Verizon Ventures) was part of R / GA’s Dodgers Accelerator, and Ross attributed much of the success of ShotTracker to the connections the agency had made.
“From that point of view, I got this first view of the power of R / GA Ventures,” Ross told me.
To participate in an alliance venture studio, the startup must be majority black owned or must have a black CEO, CTO, or board chair. However, Ross said it would not use a traditional application process, and would not be limited to a handful.
“It’s not going to be for co-workers or batches of companies,” he explained. “Thinking is a process, it is a continuous initiative [ … ] A big part of this is that it is not an application process, it is a registration process. Once we see companies working with V / RA / GA, we can start them for projects within the R / GA agency. “
In other words, considering a company as eligible, they will become eligible for three main types of support through the Alliance program – creative capital (consulting, design, copy writing and other services), relationship capital (R as Ross Introduction described as / GA) “network of untrusted blue chip clients”) and financial capital (which may come from a syndicate led by R / GA Ventures).
The launch comes after protests over the assassination of George Floyd last year, sparking widespread conversations about race and representation in startups and venture capital. Ross said he is encouraged by that conversation – but at the same time, only 1% of VC money was deployed last year with black entrepreneurs, and there is a risk that the industry could move forward without addressing systemic issues.
“As a society, we are very short-term,” he said. “We say, ‘Oh my goodness, what happened,’ and then we learn about our lives [ … ] So I was excited that it reached out to R / GA to make the commitment. Part of it is about accountability, part of it is easy choices to involve people, part of it is about storytelling. A lot of companies made statements, so it has been able to help provide vehicles to them. “
To that end, the alliance has already signed on with several partners, including many from the startup and VC worlds such as Andreessen Horowitz’s TxO initiative, Harlem Capital, Kolab Capital, Ohub, MAC Venture Capital and Gingerbread Capital. R / GA’s parent company IPG is also a partner, as are the Dodgers and Elysian Park (home to Dodger Stadium).
Eligible startups can register on the alliance website.