Slauson & Co., a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm driven by intentional inclusion announced the launch of its early-stage venture capital fund. The firm has received backing from PayPal, which recently made a big commitment toward racial equity. Ashton Kutcher, will.i.am, True Capital Management and Alpaca VC are also early supporters, along with veteran technology investor Ron Conway who will advise Slauson’s founding partners.
Led by Austin Clements and Ajay Relan, Slauson & Co. is rooted in its mission of economic empowerment and inclusion. The firm will primarily invest in and guide founders from underrepresented backgrounds building a new generation of technology and tech-enabled companies whose values are aligned with the customers they serve. Named after the prominent thoroughfare in South Los Angeles, Slauson & Co. serves as an access point to the traditional venture and tech ecosystems for the founders that it backs with the goal of providing mutual value. The firm has cultivated a diverse network of mission aligned investors, founders, operators, and executives committed to embarking on its journey of fostering sustainable equity and inclusion.
“Democratizing access to entrepreneurship through the deployment of intentional capital is our approach to helping close the rapidly increasing wealth gap in this country,” said Ajay Relan, partner at Slauson & Co. “Marginalized communities – including women and people of color – have been left out of boom cycles for decades. There is a clear disparity in the venture capital industry and it’s time to recirculate our efforts and begin leveling the playing field for these talented entrepreneurs.”
Relan, who was previously a founding partner at Queensbridge Venture Partners, is an architect of community through his multi-business portfolio. His most recent collaboration, Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, has become a staple, facilitating productivity and collaboration in diverse L.A. neighborhoods.
“We’re tapping into communities with tremendous talent that simply haven’t been given the opportunity and playbook to thrive,” said Austin Clements, partner at Slauson & Co. “We’re here to compete at the highest level and demonstrate that investing in underrepresented founders provides a competitive advantage. It’s not as though we’re suggesting we’ll catch the best fish by only focusing on one corner of the pond. What we are saying is, ‘forget the pond, let’s spend time in this massive lake where hardly anyone is fishing.’”
Clements, a former principal at TenOneTen Ventures, is a champion of inclusion in the L.A. tech ecosystem, leading organizations such as PledgeLA, a city-wide initiative that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in Tech. In addition, he has led the expansion of Grid110, a nonprofit startup accelerator.
“I’ve dedicated my entire career to supporting founders from the earliest stages and have repeatedly seen how impactful the right guidance and access to capital can change the trajectory of a company,” said Ron Conway, founder and co-managing partner at SV Angel. “I’m excited to support Austin and Ajay’s focused efforts in providing systemic change in the form of access and hands-on guidance to a truly diverse group of founders, particularly those whose ideas directly contribute to improving their communities.”
Conway has been instrumental in helping the duo bring Slauson & Co.’s vision to fruition. Through his legendary track record at SV Angel, where he continues to be an integral investor in some of the most innovative companies coming out of Silicon Valley over the past few decades, Conway’s guidance has helped the Slauson team establish a strong foundation for its first fund.