Issa Rae kicks off the Upfront summit with an ode to South Los Angeles
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After being postponed due to the pandemic, Upfront Ventures’ glitzy two-day venture capital conference finally kicked off Tuesday with a big name: Issa Rae, creator and star of the HBO series “Insecure,” who spoke passionately about her longtime goal of investing wealth back into the South Los Angeles community where she grew up.
Rae joined Upfront’s Hamet Watt for the first panel of the day to discuss his plans beyond the entertainment world. “Insecure” has raised the profile of South LA over its five seasons, and since the show ended production in 2021, Rae has focused his energies on commercial enterprises and investments designed to benefit the neighborhood and the wider Black community.
In addition to “bankrupt” businesses, in his own words, Rae also ventures into real estate. In partnership with Airbnb, she recently listed a lavish South LA home on the home-sharing site for just $56 a night over Super Bowl weekend, with the goal of letting fans check out her neighborhood.
“When it comes to buying properties, I’m not like some monopolies—but I’m about to try and build infrastructure here,” Rae said, adding that she has plans ahead. long term to build a movie studio in South Los Angeles. that would create jobs for people of color. Just as Koreatown has become a cultural and culinary mecca “rooted in Korean history,” Rae said she wants the same for South Los Angeles and the neighborhood’s black community.
Rae also owns his own audio content company, Raedio, which produces podcasts and invest in emerging musical artists. And with co-founder Deniese Davis, she launched ColorCreative, a management company supporting black creators, in 2014.
Despite Rae’s presence at the Upfront Summit, she was one of only four black founders or investors on Tuesday’s panels. The conference itself was dominated by white attendees, which speaks to the diversity issues plaguing the venture capital industry as a whole. One of the day’s black speakers, Bessemer Venture Partners co-founder Elliott Robinson, noted data from a nonprofit VC black indicating that only 3% of all venture capitalists and only 2% of venture capital firm partners are black. In turn, the black founders – and black foundersin particular, continue to receive a disproportionate share of the venture capital funding pie.
But as Rae noted, the efforts of her and those like her are a start in bringing new faces to the fundraising table. “I really want to be known as someone who provided opportunity, but also created an infrastructure for others to do the same,” she said. — Samson Love
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