Walking into Harvard Business School as friends, roommates, and colleagues in 2017, Henri Pierre-Jacques (MBA 2019) and Jarrid Tingle (MBA 2019) already knew each other well. What they didn’t know yet was how their angel syndicate, Harlem Capital, would grow, evolve, and change the face of entrepreneurship and investing over the next two years and beyond.

The Early Days and Success of Harlem Capital

The Harlem Capital story begins well before that first day on campus. In 2015, Pierre-Jacques and Tingle first joined forces at ICV Partners, a middle-market minority owned private equity firm founded by Willie Woods (MBA 1993), after each launching their careers in investment banking. “Joining ICV was a great experience and eye opening for us because we were used to being in majority environments,” said Tingle. “Also, at a smaller firm you were involved with everything – from investments, to legal, to tax, to portfolio management – which created a great preamble before Harlem Capital.”

While working at ICV, Tingle and Pierre-Jacques were also part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow career program, an organization founded by John Rice (MBA 1992). Through this program, designed to ensure underrepresented minorities are able to get on and stay on the path to senior leadership, Tingle and Pierre-Jacques connected with friends who shared their passion for investing. Their group of six sat together in Tingle’s living room in Harlem, New York and started an angel syndicate in which they invested their own personal capital into startups, small business, and real estate. “After two years, we pivoted the syndicate to be venture-only and focused purely on diversity because most of our companies were diverse,” explained Pierre-Jacques.

With funding from the Harvard Business School Rock Center that gave Pierre-Jacques and Tingle the ability to focus on Harlem Capital between first year and second year of business school, the pair made the business their full-time role after graduation. In fall 2019, they closed their first fund at $40 million with TPG as their anchor investor. The fund now has investments in 23 companies around the U.S. in 12 different industries.

The Minority Renaissance in Venture Capital

Like most new business ventures, Harlem Capital was created to fill a gap in the market and to solve a problem.

“As I recruited for venture capital in my first year at HBS, I found that there weren’t any VC funds of scale that had partners of color; the VC funds that did have partners of color were smaller,” Pierre-Jacques said. “And from a diversity perspective, most funds were gender focused versus racially focused.”

Establishing a focus on diversity has led Harlem Capital to invest in exciting women and diverse-owned companies including 4Degrees, Cashdrop, Malomo, and Repeat. These innovative companies are doing important work driving the economy forward, while also inspiring future leaders to make their own mark in the business world.

“We have a unique opportunity to change the face of entrepreneurship and create the minority renaissance for venture capital,” said Pierre-Jacques. What that looks like for Harlem Capital is clearly stated in their mission, incorporating both diverse founders and investors: “We believe it’s important for founders to know there are people who look like them willing to invest in and support them, and for the next generation to know that they too can be successful in VC.”

The Internship Funnel

As Harlem Capital raised more funds, Pierre-Jacques and Tingle were wearing many hats as Managing Partners and the team needed to expand. In addition to bringing on one of the angel syndicate’s original co-founders, Brandon Bryant, as Venture Partner, Tingle and Pierre-Jacques looked to their internship program, created in 2018, as a pool of exceptional talent.

“The internship program is run three times a year and we’re now on our ninth class. Over those nine classes of interns, we have had 4,200 applicants and have accepted 52 interns, so it is very competitive” Tingle said. Part of the draw for applicants is the remote and part-time nature of the internship, which is a manageable undertaking for people in different stages of life. “Our interns help us with diligence and market research and they also give us feedback, bring a lot of energy, and they’re really innovative. They all have different experiences they can bring to the table,” Tingle added. Through the internship program, Harlem Capital met Gabby Cazeau and Kelly Kopchik Goldstein, now Senior Associates at the firm.

With this rich pipeline of candidates, Harlem Capital engages with more talent than they can hire for full-time roles at their firm, however, they are committed to helping former interns pursue careers in venture capital. Explained Tingle, “The folks that we can’t hire, we still want to see them do very well, so if they are interested in venture capital, we look to place them at top firms.”

The part-time remote model for an internship program is unique and one that Tingle and Pierre-Jacques encourage other firms to consider as it broadens the pool of potential candidates including MBA students, seniors and juniors in college, and professionals working full-time. Venture Capital firms can benefit immensely from this diverse group of talented future investors, and they can also help make an impact on peoples’ lives with valuable experience and by opening new doors of opportunity.

Attracting and Hiring Diverse Applicants

To attract applicants, Harlem Capital leverages prep programs focused on diverse talent like MLT, Toigo, and SEO, but they also utilize their social media presence to get the word out. “We’re big proponents of public posts,” Tingle said. “For anyone who is serious about diversity you have to let people see the job. You can’t apply for a job you don’t know exists. To broaden the funnel and find the best talent you have to publish job postings publicly instead of relying on networking and referrals.”

The next stage of building a diverse team is considering the various stages of the applicant funnel and being intentional about hiring. “We always track race and gender all the way through our hiring process to make sure that we don’t have any biases,” Tingle noted. “Our class has been at least 50% if not more women and it’s also very diverse in terms of ethnicity.”

This isn’t to stay intentionality in the recruiting process is easy, especially with large numbers of applicants. “When you are reviewing 1400 resumes you can try to be intentional but it’s impossible because you need to do some quick screening,” Pierre-Jacques said. “So, we always need to go back and analyze how we selected candidates subconsciously and then consciously determine how to reset to make sure we get back in line with the top of the funnel (in terms of race, gender, industry experience, and education). That’s something we do at every stage of the process.”

Networking for hiring and finding new investment opportunities does still remain an important part of their business strategy at Harlem Capital, but in a different way “We look at networking from a ‘just in case’ versus a ‘just in time’ perspective,” said Tingle. “‘Just in time’ is transactional, but the ‘just in case’ mindset means that you never know who could be helpful when or when you could help somebody.”

This combination of ongoing and relationship-based networking, public job postings, and analyzing bias in hiring has been a winning combination for Harlem Capital as they build their diverse team and achieve financial success. As Pierre-Jacques stated, “We were only able to have such diversity because we approach our intern funnel exactly how we approach our deal funnel — intentionally.”