Celebrating Black History Month with Taj Ahmad-Eldridge (LACI, Senior Director of Investments)
Tell us about your work with LACI.
Along with my colleague Adriana Embus-Figueroa who serves as our Fund Management Analyst, we make the investment recommendations, and package the investments for our board who makes the final investment decisions.
In addition, I direct all investment initiatives for portfolio companies including investment curriculum, investor relations + networking, and advising on engagement. I’m tasked with providing access to the fuel for our companies to grow. I’m also a part of the team tasked with raising additional equity funds from Limited Partners for LACI to benefit our portfolio companies. I really love talking about diversity in cleantech!
How did you get into VC?
Prior to LACI I was at the University of California Riverside as the Accelerator Director, and helped raise the Highlander Venture Fund there, and prior to that, I ran my own fund. I learned a lot from a course I took with Brad Feld and many mentors in the industry as well as being a former founder.
What is the Black VC community like in Los Angeles?
I think it’s very close knit. Everyone knows and respects each other. I’m lucky because a lot of gentlemen in the VC space are my fraternity brothers (Kappa Alpha Psi) and a lot of the women in LA venture, I’ve served on panels with and look up to!
What is your hope for VC in LA?
My hope is that we differentiate how we approach investing – making it different than what we see currently. As an example, I love the things IndieVC does (revenue share model, their scouting model), and I like the industry space’s new funds like OnPurposeVentures are in. I hope LA can find value in the deep rich diversity here and tell our story the only way we know how. Isn’t LA the land of storytelling?
What’s your advice for people from underrepresented communities who are interested in exploring VC?
When I first got into the industry, I emulated what I saw in look and feel, but later learned that authenticity is my greatest asset and should be yours too. Be yourself.
I also say to treat people kindly – maybe it’s because I’m from the south originally (Texas), but I think “southern hospitality” is a lost art sometimes in venture…and on VC Twitter! Have a “give first, take nothing” mentality and you will eventually be given everything.
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