INDIANAPOLIS — A local investment firm is planning to invest in diversity within Indiana’s business community.
Sixty8 Capital announced its launch of a $20 million venture capital fund. The goal is to invest in select start-up companies and businesses, whose founders may lack capital access due to race, gender, sexual orientation or proximity.
The firm, which supports Black, Latinx, women and LGBTQ+ led companies, is working with a variety of partners including Eli Lilly, Bank of America, First Internet Bank and a host of others to make it possible.
Leading Sixty8 Capital is Kelli Jones, who is also the first Black woman to lead a venture capital fund in Indiana.
While the role comes with a huge undertaking, Jones says she’s up to using her platform as a seed of change to support start-up businesses, whose resources may be otherwise limited.
“Being the first is great, but the purpose of being first is so you can open the door so other people can walk through sooner, and quicker, and with less sort of pain and strife,” said Jones. “We don’t want anyone to have to to repeat this work.”
The opportunity is open to start-up businesses, in the early stages, no more than a year or two in operation. The business must also have potential to grow quickly.
Selected companies could receive between $250,000 to half a million. 50% will focus on investments in the Hoosier state, while the remainder will be invested throughout the country.
Jones says this is open to any and all kinds of business models.
“You know your traditional tech companies, your apps, your software, things like that are great, but I also want to see consumer packaged goods, food and beverage companies, health, beauty and wellness brands, anyone that’s utilizing E-Commerce, media, music — we can look at almost anything.”
Though the opportunity is open to all diversities, Jones says there’s a strong focus on the Black community, as it is the most undercapitalized.
“Less than one percent of Black people are getting access to venture capital, even less if you count women, especially Black women,” said Jones, “and we also saw this as an opportunity to be a decision maker.”
“Many times, the people that are making decisions to invest in companies do not look like you or I,” she added. “They’re made up of white men, and that’s no offense, but sometimes you need people that look like, and represent, the people you’re investing in.”
There’s no deadline for companies to apply, but Jones says they’re looking to invest in 30 start-ups over the course of two years. She says they’ll announce investments in batches, starting with at least 10 or 11 this year alone.
Jones says everyone has a shot at this opportunity. While it may not be a “one size fits all” method, she says it doesn’t hurt to let people know about their options.
“This is another type of capital that we can look at for our businesses,” Jones said. “This is also a type of capital that can help us grow and scale really quickly. If we want to build sustainable businesses that are long-lasting, we have to look at different ways to start and run our businesses.”
Part of that includes how companies are implementing diversity. Jones says that’s one of the key factors she’s looking for when choosing who gets selected.
“I want to make sure that we are not giving diversity the lens of just one face, but that we’re looking at it across the entire spectrum,” she said. “What does your entire business look like? How do you sort of put yourself out there into the world? How did you respond to Black Lives Matter?”
Jones says investment is a long-lasting relationship. With 50% of investments going to Indiana, she says Sixty8 is making the commitment to see change here at home. That’s as its founders are rooted in the area.
“The change we want to see, and the generational wealth we want to see, is going to be tied to how this investment works in our own community, and so if we want to see a change here, it has to be at home first.”
According to Jones, the application process is simple, but thorough and will include a variety of interviews with herself and other key players.
While everyone has a shot at the opportunity, Jones says Sixty8 Capital can still assist even if your business isn’t a fit.
“We are an open book and that’s what we aim to be. This is not something people can’t touch. It’s not something that’s mystical. This is real people, doing real things and investing in our community directly.”
To apply, you can fill out a form online. From there, Jones says they’ll be in contact with applicants as the site is checked daily. So far, Sixty8 has received hundreds of applications and the number is only expected to grow.
If you have questions, or would like to get in touch with Sixty8 for business-related advice and guidance, you can e-mail Kelli@sixty8.capital