The Oregon Growth Board Invests in New Black Founders Matter Fund
SALEM, OR — During its most recent meeting, the Oregon Growth Board (OGB) committed $350,000 to the Include Venture Group for its new Black Founders Matter Fund I (BFM). The investment represents the latest effort by the Board to leverage the Oregon Growth Fund (OGF) to support local emerging fund managers. The Oregon Growth Board is staffed by Business Oregon, and Business Oregon manages the programs overseen by the Board.
Recently founded by Himalaya Rao-Potlapally and Marceau Michel, Include Venture Group is launching a series of Venture Capital funds seeking to invest mainly in underserved and underrepresented entrepreneurs in Oregon. BFM’s mission is to demonstrate — through capital returns — the ability of Black and minority entrepreneurs to help to solve societal problems through their innovative and differently-lived perspective. The fund aims to add diversity into a largely non-diverse funding ecosystem.
“This is a big step forward for our Fund and our state,” said Marceau Michel, co-founder of Include Venture Group. “Partnering with OGB has been a goal since the inception of our Fund. We appreciate their confidence in myself and Himalaya, but also confidence in the viability of investing in Black and underserved entrepreneurs. As Oregon continues to create more economic opportunities for all — especially those historically left behind — this investment in our Fund encourages us for what the future holds. We are looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with OGB.”
After leaving a long career as an ordained minister, Michel got his entrepreneurial start winning Tech Stars Startup Weekend in 2016. He went on to launch Werkhorse, an on-demand staffing platform. He became an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Jaguar Land Rover Incubator in Portland shortly thereafter. In 2017, he launched the Black Founders Matter apparel line to raise awareness about the disparity in funding for Black entrepreneurs. In 2018, Michel became an analyst for Rogue Venture Partners and announced the Black Founders Venture Fund in 2019. He has served as a judge for Techfest NW, InventOR, and many other local startup competitions. He also serves at a Mentor in Residence at Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and advises several startups.
Rao-Potlapally graduated from Willamette University with a Master of Business Administration focused in Venture Capital finance. She also holds a Master of Social Work from Adelphi University. Rao-Potlapally works with the Portland Seed Fund and has experience working inside and consulting with seven venture funds. She also managed two conference funds, Angel Food 2019 and Mid-Valley Angel Fund 2020, which she helped to launch. Rao-Potlapally has also launched two start-up ventures prior to fund management.
The OGB is uniquely positioned to stimulate Oregon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by filling capital gaps. The OGF is the Board’s prime economic development tool, it’s been used to help grow local Venture Capital funds and conferences, fund Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and other innovative approaches to support Oregon entrepreneurs. First-time fund managers traditionally struggle to fundraise due to a lack of an established track record, so the OGF invests in promising emerging fund managers to help them overcome that initial obstacle. Furthermore, part of the Board’s strategic plan is to emphasize investments targeting underrepresented and/or rural communities.
Prior to its commitment to this fund, the OGF invested in the Oregon Angel Food Fund and the Bend Venture Conference Impact Track Fund in 2020. Additionally, the Board reacted expediently to the COVID crisis in March, forgiving OGF’s outstanding loans to CDFI partners and deploying its capital available to form the Small Business Stabilization Fund in partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation.
Media Contact: Nathan Buehler, 503-689-3559