Last April, I wrote about what Nipsey Hussle meant to his community just after his passing. I concluded by saying he “doubled down on investing in his community because he knew it would inspire others to do the same. It worked. I hope to do the same.”
Since then I started On Purpose Ventures (OPV) alongside Ajay Relan and Karim Webb, two well respected South LA entrepreneurs. We each have long known that talent, creativity and ambition are abundant in our community. Unfortunately, there’s been limited access to capital, resources, and guidance. The result, as Brookings describes it, “those raised in South LA are disproportionately restricted from economic and social mobility compared to the rest of the city.”
Providing capital through a fund addresses one key aspect of making a difference, but I also knew there was something more foundational that needed to be done for South LA. I wanted to bring South LA the same quality of guidance and resources that entrepreneurs regularly access in other parts of the city.
Off the Grid
I got to know Miki Reynolds, the Executive Director of Grid110, through the Advisory Committee of PledgeLA. We both have a deep interest in building the city of Los Angeles, but quickly realized we also share a perspective on company building and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems.
As an investor, I was consistently blown away by the founders that were coming through the Grid110 program. When I finally decided to dig into what the program was about, I came across their mission statement which read like a personal mission statement I would have written for myself:
Our mission is to foster the most thriving, inviting & inclusive community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. We believe that anyone with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur should have the chance to pursue it and receive support along the way. Our work impacts individuals who are often overlooked by traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems. That’s what drives us to make the entrepreneurial path more equitable, inclusive and accessible.
And Grid110 delivers on that mission. The organization has had over 140 companies come through the program, 60% have had a founder that’s a person of color and 69% have had a female founder. After the program, companies have raised capital from top venture firms or have gone on to top programs like Techstars and Y Combinator.
But what’s most impressive is that Grid110 companies are primarily focused on building strong, sustainable businesses. They learn that success does not have to be defined by what the venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road feel about them. This kind of approach to business building is exactly what is needed in South LA. As it turned out, Miki and the Grid110 team had already been working on expanding to South LA. After I learned what they had in mind, I knew I had to be involved.
The Next Episode
I’m excited to share that I’ll be leading Grid110 South LA as Managing Director and today we’re opening applications for the inaugural class! Applications will be open through June 1st and the program starts in July.
We’re looking for entrepreneurs interested in building innovative products and services in South LA — From those who have a game-changing business idea that they just can’t let go of, to those that are established businesses ready to grow. We’ll be running both of the main Grid110 programs, Residency and Idea 2 Product.
What we’re doing is just as exciting as where we’re doing it. Vector90, a community oriented co-working space focused on supporting underrepresented founders, will be hosting the program in their space. David Gross and his team at Vector90 are truly committed to supporting the South LA community. They are the perfect launch partner for this program. All the companies in our class will receive a full membership to Vector90 through Grid110.
Shoot Your Shot
Over the years I’ve repeatedly had people remind me “talent is evenly distributed, while opportunity is not.” Now I’m launching Grid110 South LA and leading OPV to work toward changing that in our city. At PledgeLA, we continue to take an active role in creating a more equitable Los Angeles. We support South LA specifically by partnering with established and emerging non-profit orgs who have been doing the work, now we’re also developing a state-of-the-art Teen Tech Center to empower the next generation.
To be clear, this isn’t a story about struggle, it’s a story about tapping into untapped human potential. And for the entrepreneurs we’re looking to serve, we know their lived experience is a competitive advantage.
If you are an entrepreneur looking for high quality guidance and a supportive founder community, I strongly encourage you to apply to be part of the inaugural class of Grid110 South LA. Take a minute to learn more about the requirements and which of the two programs would best for you or share someone you know. We look forward to hearing from you!