Hairtelligence: Breaking Barriers in Black Hair
By E’mani Davis
This investment pays homage to a rich history that shows how Black women developed innovative approaches in spaces that traditionally overlooked them. All the advancements that are made in this industry are standing on the back of Madam C.J. Walker, a Black businesswoman who became the first-ever female millionaire in 1910. Madam C.J. Walker brought innovation to the hair care industry when she developed her own formula for pomade, brushing, and the use of heated combs, and created a haircare treatment called “The Walker Method”. The work she did has not been in vain, the teams at Mayvenn (Series B), RadSwan (Seed), and Naza Beauty (Seed) are all testaments that the industry is still evolving and thriving with the support and leadership of the Black community. I long for the time where investing in founders of color is considered a norm and not the exception. Being in VC for less than a year, it’s clear that the industry is disconnected and sleeping on Black talent and innovation.
Being a Black woman, so early in my finance career, and having the opportunity to be an active member in a deal where the product and the team was a reflection of me, was something I imagined would happen much later in my career. The powerful small Unshackled VC team challenged me to walk with that agency and power as an analyst and reinforced a lesson I’ve learned from Arlan Hamilton: To fight insecurity with information.
I was granted space to grow, execute and seek relationships that aligned with my values and enriched my experience in VC. Being planted in that environment has led me to opportunities like Hairtelligence, where the founders and product mirror myself and my community. This experience highlights how important diversity is when it comes down to decision-making partner meetings. Diversity must exist in that realm and not just on social media or D&I reports. One of the things I appreciate the most about Unshackled VC is that they saw value in my experience and welcomed that in every aspect of the business. I truly believe that the reason Unshackled VC has established a diverse portfolio is that they embodied that in the team and it’s welcomed in every facet.