Upstart Business Journal: Former NAACP head turns VC, plans to boost minority entrepreneurs

Kapor Center

By Kent Bernhard Jr in the Upstart Business Journal

Benjamin Jealous, credited with turning around the NAACP while head of the civil rights organization, plans to take his fight for social justice to California as a venture capitalist. Jealous is joining Kapor Capital of Oakland. His job, to find and help fund startups led by African American and Latino entrepreneurs.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jealous’ new bosses, Silicon Valley pioneer Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor Klein, were looking for a talent like Jealous when it came to beefing up that effort. Here’s the Chronicle:

They know that after six years at the front lines of politics and activism, the 41-year-old Rhodes Scholar has tight contacts with Fortune 500 companies, union leaders and community activists and is young enough to relate to the startup community.

“There’s nobody else in the world who can organize coalitions like Ben,” said Kapor Klein, who has been friends with Jealous for more than a decade. Case in point: In 2011, Jealous pulled her left-leaning husband into a national prison reform effort with conservative antitax activist Grover Norquist.

While Jealous doesn’t have a business background, “the turnaround he did at the NAACP,” Kapor Klein said, “rivals anything that’s been done in the corporate world.”

Jealous took over the NAACP at age 35, the youngest-ever person to lead the civil rights organization. While there, he ushered it into the digital age, doubling revenue to $46 million and growing its donor base ten-fold.

When he left the NAACP in January, Jealous spoke of teaching and spending time with his young family.

But the lure of Silicon Valley is strong, especially for someone looking to change the world.

The Root reports:

He’ll be working now to “diversify the start-up culture of the Silicon Valley by any means,” including efforts like Kapor’s sponsorship of “hack-athons” that provide experience for elementary and middle schools students who want to enhance their computer-programming skills and its funding of University Now, a program designed to ease the cost burden of tuition for minority students seeking advanced degrees.

Jealous told the Associated Press, “My life’s mission has been leveling the playing field and closing gaps in opportunity and success. I’m excited about trying a different approach.”