Kelli Jones | Sixty8 Capital + Be Nimble: Shining a Light on the Undercapitalized

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This is a podcast episode titled, Kelli Jones | Sixty8 Capital + Be Nimble: Shining a Light on the Undercapitalized. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today we talk to Kelli Jones, co-founder of both Sixty8 Capital and the Be Nimble Foundation. Sixty8 Capital is a Indiana-based venture firm dedicated to investing in diverse communities. Be Nimble is non-profit with the goal of advancing diversity initiatives to create fully inclusive tech ecosystems. In this episode we talk about Kelli’s journey to working in venture capital, the shared missions of Sixty8 Capital and Be Nimble, and what Indiana can do to be a more inclusive tech community. </p>

Roger Shuman (00:00):
Alright, well, Kelly, thanks so much for being here, for giving us some time today. We appreciate you being on the Circuit.
Kelli Jones (01:17):
Of course.
Roger Shuman (01:19):
So let's talk a little bit about your path into capital and check, because you originally started out your career more in marketing and sales, right?
Kelli Jones (01:28):
Roger Shuman (01:31):
I've heard you say that if you've ever been to South by Southwest between the years 2010 and 2015, you've probably seen my work. Can you tell me more about that and what that means?
Kelli Jones (01:42):
Yeah, it's actually true too, . So, when I first left, Indiana, I moved out to New York, and actually started working in the music industry, specifically at music festivals. I had developed like a... Basically I was doing sponsorships in marketing at this specific festival in Brooklyn. And what had happened is that I worked for a company that was actually a pro audio company that sold, music tech products, both hardware and software. we had this really cool idea to like get a bus, turn it into a studio, and then at this music festival have the artists that we're performing record. And then we turned it into a mix tape. And the idea was really so cool that I ended up working for that company for about a year and a half.
Kelli Jones (02:26):
And that's really what started my first like business, right? So what I would do is I would work closely with brands and I would do their in person activations at South by Southwest, A3C, all sorts of stuff. And so I did activations at South by for yeah, about five or six years I think. this year was the first year I've been back. Obviously Covid had happened, but before that I had not been back since I think 2018. so it was nice to kind of get back and see like some of my old stomping grounds where I used to do a lot of shows, but I've worked with brands like Samsung and Lyft and Airbnb and Google and all sorts of companies and brands and, and got to do some really, really cool stuff. And so that's really how I kind of stepped into kind of this sales and marketing role working specifically kind of with, with tech companies or tech enabled companies.
Kelli Jones (03:12):
But then my path kind of took a little bit of a, right. One of the clients I had, which was a music tech company called Kai, had Young Guru, who is Jay-Z's DJ and engineer as a client. And so I did a one year project with him. At the end of it, he ended up asking me if I'd like to join this team. He had this idea for something around kind of, exposing opportunities in tech to youth called Air of the Engineer. And it was really about sort of taking the idea of engineering and putting it in the lens of culture. So he was a studio, audio engineer. so obviously like records, music artists, like Jay-Z, who happens to be one of my favorite rappers, but also was really into tech and knew how to code and got to do some really, really interesting things.
Kelli Jones (03:57):
And so that really is what kind of shifted my focus from being so hardcore in sales and marketing to really starting to understand what it meant, to look at opportunities for diversity and inclusion in tech. that was in 2010 and it was around the time that Google and Microsoft and others started to release our diversity data. And that was during a time where we were seeing really, really abysmal numbers. 1%, 2%. and so as part of era, the engineer, we got to build a tech platform for kids called Ear Sketch. We partnered with Georgia Tech, the National Science Foundation, and it taught kids how to do Python and Java using music production. And so that was my first time like kind of creating a coding like platform for youth using kind of music and culture. And, and I think at that moment I realized like what I was probably gonna end up doing for the rest of my life is really trying to figure out how to see more people that look like me in the space. and that's both with jobs and then that's also obviously with, with entrepreneurship. So that's what got me from where we were to where we are kind of now, or at least the, the catalyst for it. .
Roger Shuman (05:04):
And you, you were born and raised in Indiana, right?
Kelli Jones (05:07):
I was.
Roger Shuman (05:09):
And then as you just talked about some of these places where your career took you, you were, I mean Brooklyn, Atlanta, LA, when did you eventually come back to Indianapolis?
Kelli Jones (05:19):
So I moved back to Indianapolis in April of 2017. we had actually launched Be Nimble slash From Nap with Love, in late 2016. And it's actually co-founded by my cousin and I. His name is Jeff Williams. He actually lives in Dallas currently. He came to LA where I was living at the time. And we just started to talk about what are some things that we'd like to do that we could do back in Indy, you know, being kind of, now I'm a boomerang, but at the time being from Indianapolis still being very connected cause my family is all there and still here, we thought it's an opportunity for us to do something really transformational. And understanding what was happening in the tech sector locally was amazing. but just like everything else that I was seeing in the space, at that time I was working at a startup.
Kelli Jones (06:08):
Um, it's not very diverse and I imagine that it would be the same thing in Indeed. And so it was a really unique opportunity for us to think about how do we address diversity and inclusion in tech and apply it to smaller, more emerging ecosystems like in Indianapolis. And so that's really where the idea was born was actually in Los Angeles. And we had our first event, which was Party Gras in 2017 and got connected to TechPoint and pinned our partnership with Eleven Fifty Academy. And all those things just started to accelerate, the idea that maybe we had something that we could really, do and grow. and so I elected to move back after kind of playing, you know, kind of overstepping and using the fact that I could work from home to my advantage. I would kind of come back and forth a lot. but I officially moved back in April, and then left my job and then spent the first year, working on, on Be Nimble, off my savings then, and then finally had to get a job because that was starting to run low. So Yeah.
Roger Shuman (07:12):
Then you landed at Givelify right?
Kelli Jones (07:14):
Yes. So while I had met, obviously through the work at that time, we had already had our first, our first conference called Disrupt Indy. and it was at I believe the NCAA that year. So that was 2018 I believe, or no, that was 2017 I think. and so I had met Wale, and I believe I met him through another, startup founder at the time. And he always just like, he would always just comment on the work we were doing and, you know, would always just check in and just see how I was doing. Like, was always just like super supportive. and one day he had this opportunity, I'd actually just finished doing the Sales Bootcamp, because I was actually trying to look for a job in sales in Indy was having a hard time getting anything.
Kelli Jones (07:59):
And so I did the TechPoint Sales Bootcamp, and I'd gotten a offer and then at the same time he had called and it said, you know, I have this opportunity like would love to see if you can help me with it. And it was for this role people, culture and brand. And so I actually ended up taking that role, to help grow Givelify at the time I came in, I think we were at about 12 employees and when I left we were at 50. And so, really explosive, explosive growth, but also I think, you know, working at Givelify and really like being really close to Wale and hearing about his experience as he was raising. And at this point I had, you know, started to build relationships with other like black founders like Ade that was around and Wayne, Patrick and had started like having these conversations around what's happening in the startup ecosystem for black founders.
Kelli Jones (08:49):
And just hearing his story about like pitching everybody and like getting a resounding no and, and like the frustration of it all and then him, you know, just deciding like to, you know, just say screw it and just, you know, do it. and now to grow that it's grown into this massive, massive company that's doing so amazingly well. It's amazing. But like he is the reason why I think I, I really wanted to like accelerate how quickly we moved to raising a fund cause it was always on kind of the strategic plan to get there. I just wasn't trying to get there that fast , but it happened.
Roger Shuman (09:26):
Yep. And that's an issue too. Like I've, I've talked to a number of, of founders who are people of color and in fact, even very deliberately a few years ago I had conversations with about five different founders and you know, what you're saying is exactly true that that the number of no's you get, if you're a person of color and you're a founder versus being, you know, a white person, I mean it's so much higher and, I'm sure so much more, I don't know, I don't know what the words I'm looking for, but it's, it has, it has to be pretty defeating when you're out trying to raise capital...
Kelli Jones (10:05):
Yeah, frustrating.
Roger Shuman (10:06):
...other people who maybe have a not even as good of an idea of yours and they're raising capital.
Kelli Jones (10:11):
Yeah, it's true. You know, I, I think what I had uncovered, there were a few things I had uncover. I think one, I don't think I spent as much time on the diversity thing cause we, I think there's diversity issues in venture capital across the spectrum. So I didn't really like dial into that. Like I didn't see that as reasoning, like I saw as reasoning a few other things. It was kind of like type of company, the business model type, right? Like it is not traditional, for Indiana VCs. And I think this is by design because where we've had success is in, you know, B2B SaaS and like that is where we've had the success. That's where the expertise is and that's what we focus on. But when you're approached with other opportunities that are outside of that, you know, I think investors feel like they can't help you. It's one part. And I think the second part is if you don't understand the market, the actual market that they're going after, it's really hard to make a funding decision. And so, I think that's what I picked up on the most was those two things. And I think those are the reason why those two things are so important to the thesis of Sixty8 now.
Roger Shuman (11:16):
Hmm. and I wanna talk about Sixty8 Capital, but I wanna back
Kelli Jones (11:20):
There a little bit . Yeah.
Roger Shuman (11:23):
And definitely we wanna talk about that. but I want, you mentioned all these different things you're doing and, and, and I wanna hone in a little bit more on Be Nimble, but you know, all these different things you mentioned you got Be Nimble, From Nap with Love, Givelify. The question is, do you have more hours in the day than other people that allow you to be able to juggle all these, all of these jobs and all these responsibilities at once?
Kelli Jones (11:50):
Absolutely not. I don't, you know, I think I have been blessed, especially as I've come back to Indy and as I've had jobs like at Givelify, even when I was at TechStars, I worked at places where the people understood what I did outside of work. And so it was really easy for me to kind of merge the work I was doing with Be Nimble or From Nap with Love, with the work I was doing in my nine to five. And they were supporters of it. They attended all my stuff, they sponsored, you know. So I think having that open line of communication was big. I think the second is like obviously I have a team. So, right now we're a team, I believe of 12, both part-time and full-time and kind of contractors that work on Be Nimble and From Nap with Love.
Kelli Jones (12:33):
So I have a team of people that, you know, are helping working on these things and building, our events and sending out our newsletters and doing our social media and working closely with the people that, we're training and working closely with our entrepreneurs. And so I think building a a solid team is really important. the other thing is like, I very much run both companies like a startup, honestly. You know, we bootstrapped, right? We bootstrapped through events, you know, we brought on a team, we tried some stuff out that we thought would work, we found that some of those things did work, and then we were able to kind of start getting grant dollars and donations and throwing bigger events to do more and to now do more on top of that. And so I think we've kind of taken that same trajectory and the work starting from literally zero, to now having something that I think has been transformative to the ecosystem, I think, there's always more work to do, and more that can be done, but, there's never enough hours in the day. But I've been blessed to work at places that loved what I did outside of work. And so, it was a lot easier to execute.
Roger Shuman (13:41):
It's also, you know, when you're having fun probably makes it a little easier. And making an impact, I think. So, so tell me about Be Nimble. What's the mission of Be Nimble? What do people need to know about why you started it?
Kelli Jones (13:56):
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, vision for us is, has always been generational wealth, like really figuring out how to close the wealth gap, and using tech to do that. And so we consider ourselves a talent development organization, entrepreneurship support organization, really focused on, spending time with investing in investing with, and investing on, black people. and so what that looks like for us is up-skilling programs that really focus on transitional black talent. So black talent that's either in the workforce already that's interested in transitioning into a tech role or looking to just build their skills repertoire and helping them potentially get higher paying jobs. I'd like to share some data on some of that. I'll come back to it though. and then obviously entrepreneurship support, which for us started as pitch competitions evolved into more like early stage idea stage accelerators and now have really, really gone more towards industry focused accelerators, really hyper focused on business models that are venture back-able and being able to build infrastructure around them much earlier. for the purpose of scale,
Roger Shuman (15:03):
So you mentioned accelerators.
Kelli Jones (15:04):
mm-hmm. .
Roger Shuman (15:06):
At a certain point, I think after Givelify, you took a role with the Heritage Group, their accelerator, which at the time was a TechStar accelerator.
Kelli Jones (15:14):
Roger Shuman (15:14):
I know you had some past experience with TechStars. So now you're working in deep tech, right?
Kelli Jones (15:20):
Roger Shuman (15:20):
So what was that like, was that eye opening and what, what did you learn there?
Kelli Jones (15:25):
Yeah, so one, I knew nothing about deep tech, when I started at TechStars, in that program. And, I thought that was great because I think for me, it allowed me to learn about a sector that I had no opportunity to get to know before or had no experience in. But I'm a fast learner, I'm a quick learner, and I pick up on things really quickly. And so I learned a lot about what the opportunities are, especially around infrastructure. So the, the program was really focused on like construction. It was deep tech, it was chemicals, it was material science, so it was like so broad. And so I, in the companies that we had in that first class were all different kinds. Like we had environmental companies, we had construction companies, we had companies that made gravel.
Kelli Jones (16:15):
We had companies that found out a way to take cowhide and turn into leather in a more economical, sustainable way. So it was so many different types of businesses. And so I got to learn a lot about how those businesses work and what those opportunities were. I can admit that I'm still probably not the most, like, I don't know a lot or a ton or I'm not become some kind of expert in this space, but it's definitely a space that I definitely have a lot more interest in and spend a lot more time in, even as we're looking at portfolio companies for Sixty8.
Roger Shuman (16:48):
So, at, at a certain point now, you're honing in on venture capital or just raising capital, and you make a connection with Allos Ventures in Indianapolis. And at a certain point, there's a $20 million fund called Sixty8 Capital.
Kelli Jones (17:10):
Roger Shuman (17:11):
Tell me more about how that came to be, and then I definitely want you to jump into some of those numbers that you wanted to talk about.
Kelli Jones (17:16):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, those are more around talent development, but we can come back around to it, . But, so, so interestingly enough, we did our first pitch competition for Be Nimble in 2018. I think after that experience, I immediately knew that we had to raise a fund much sooner than what I initially had on my timeline. So I first talked about a fund that was called Black Hatch Fund in 2019, and it started kind of raising, I put that in quotes. It was honestly just like socializing the idea and seeing who would be down , in 2019. and so it kind of comes around to like 2020. I had kind of had a handful of people that was saying that they were interested and I said, okay, this is enough for me to one, feel like I can probably go full time with like, trying to make this thing work.
Kelli Jones (18:06):
And then two, trying to figure out like how I could actually get it done. Like there's so much data around, you know, emerging managers, fund ones being extremely hard to raise and very hard to raise if you do not have like a traditional venture background or you haven't been a company lead that is exited. You know, so for me it's like I already didn't have that, I already came into this space in a very nontraditional way, but there was a couple things that I definitely knew, and it's one, I, I knew and understood companies and I knew what value I could bring to those companies and I understood business models, that scaled and I knew how to bring value to those business models that scaled. And I think the combination of my experience with Be Nimble and doing our kind of entrepreneurship pitch competitions and programs combined with what I was able to get with TechStars, and then also just the stuff that I had learned at working at startups like Blavity and Hip Hop DX and the work I got to do with Young Guru building startups, like combined, I think one, I had this wide network, like this insane like nationwide network, I was able to really like hone in on what it was that my secret sauce was, but I was definitely missing something, which is kind of like, what's actually gonna help me get it over the hump.
Kelli Jones (19:25):
And so my mentor, who I had been working with for probably a couple years prior to actually getting what's now known as Sixty8 off the ground, kind of giving me tips and they had been Inventor a long time, had their own funds, you know, has a fund to fund. And so it was giving me like, just really great advice. And one of the things that they had mentioned is, you're an emerging manager, you're raising a fund, one the like the likelihood the odds are against you, the likelihood that you could actually get it done. He's like, I believe in you, but the likelihood that you can actually get it done is, is rougher. He's like, so figure out how you find a way to accelerate that. And one of the ways that, he mentioned was, you know, is there an opportunity for you to align with another fund manager or another firm that could operate back office for you that you could utilize as advisors, that you kinda have as a partnership, to help you get this fund off the ground?
Kelli Jones (20:17):
And so, I talked to a few funds. I had had like this amazing relationship with, Paul who at the time, was an associate there, he and I, about a year or so before, had tried to get initial funding for fun. so we had been through kind of this process, when he was at the Kentucky Innovation Fund and he was now at Allos. And so the timing of like me getting to this point where it's like, I'm ready to do this fun, and then at the same time, like he hits me up and is like, Hey, let's catch up. And he tells me, me like, Hey, you know, I've been like socializing this idea with Allos on doing a fund around, you know, diverse fund managers. He's like, are you still trying to do something in this space? And I'm like, Oh my God, .
Kelli Jones (20:57):
Like, I was like, I dunno what's happening right now, but like I was literally just like having a conversation around like having these couple of like commitments and like having a little bit of an advisory board starting to come together and like needing this other piece. And so when at first their idea was having like a fund, like within their fund then became, Well, why don't we figure out how to partner with Kelly to help her get this thing off the ground? And so Paul and I were able to kind of put together like what the fund was gonna be about and portfolio construction around it, and how many companies, And when I first started this, I only wanted to raise 3 million Roger, I swear I only wanted to raise 3 million. And somehow some way we decided on 15 was gonna be the number, and then somehow I decided that 20 was gonna be the number. And through that we went from Black Hatch Fund, kind of turning into Sixty8 Capital, and then we launched. and that was in May of 2020. And I think it's been like history ever since. Like it's, and it's, it's perfect timing, I would say, like all around .
Roger Shuman (22:03):
So there's, there's significance to the name Sixty8 Capital too, right?
Kelli Jones (22:06):
Yeah, a lot. A lot. So, we have the opportunity to work closely with InnovateMap, an amazing firm that we have had relationships with for a really long time. And one of the things they allowed me to do was build this really diverse team of like designers and marketers to kind of build out what this brand would be for the company. And one of the pitches was for this name Sixty8, and the meaning behind it being like 1968, one of the most pivotal years in the Civil Rights movement. It was, a lot of pivotal years around women's movement. It was just a lot of kind of like turmoil and the timing of where we were, right? Cause at that time it's summer 2020, and Summer 2020 was when, you know, we're in the middle of a pandemic. Black Lives Matter is like all over the place.
Kelli Jones (22:49):
We know about like kind of the, the hurt of the black community. And so the name aligned with kinda what I was feeling at the time, which was, you know, I believe in protests. I believe in standing up. I've always believed that generational wealth for black people was the way that we got to a position of power so that we can make true change if, if this fund is named in the image of a time where we were fighting for just that. I feel like that makes sense. And it, it didn't like, it was interesting that during the time that's exactly what we were going through. Protests, you know, the middle of a pandemic, something we had never seen in, in our country. black people like being probably the poorest they'd ever been. Like, we all of a sudden saw all of the gaps that we had been talking about for so long.
Kelli Jones (23:40):
Like all of a sudden those gaps became very pronounced. And in the, the middle of all of this we're also talking about the impact on black businesses. And it just like, it felt like the perfect thing. I call Sixty8 Capital the perfect protest. It's my personal protest. I protest with economic vitality to the black community. Some people march, some people give money, I believe in rising up the black community, and doing that in a way that creates economic mobility. And so the name, has a lot more meaning than I think people assume.
Roger Shuman (24:14):
How do the missions of Sixty8 Capital and Be Nimble align? Where do they differ and what are they trying to accomplish?
Kelli Jones (24:20):
So I always say that there's a dotted line between Be Nimble and Sixty8 Capital. I also kind of call Be Nimble, our platform, in venture-speak, in venture capital, you'll find that a lot of times they have a platform team platform or the people that help the portfolio, companies that are, you know, creating events that are, you know, creating connectivity in the portfolio. I feel like with Be Nimble what it is that it actually becomes our platform, it allows us to source talent, right? From the talent that we're actually developing through our programs. It allows us, if a founder is not quite ready to get money from Sixty8, we can say, Oh, you should come and check out one of these programs that Sixty8 has, or that Be Nimble has, right? Or if we have founders that are coming through our accelerator programs or coming through our pitch competitions, they're the ones that end up getting funded by us.
Kelli Jones (25:06):
I mean, we already have two companies that have been through our pitch competitions as portfolio companies now. and so it becomes both this like support mechanism. It becomes, an area where startups can get additional, resources and activity. But it also is, is truly our early stage pipeline for Indiana deals. most black and brown companies that are in, in the state we've touched before in some way. And I think there's something to be said about that, right? It's both companies that we've helped develop, it's companies that were already existing and that have come to us for help. It's, people that actually had never thought that they wanted to start a tech company that had this idea and didn't think it was a reality are now the ones that are actually creating their first MVPs. And there's a lot to be said about that. and so it, it actually is the vehicle for what drives our Indiana focus in Sixty8.
Roger Shuman (26:02):
So Be Nimble, definitely they, to some degree, it's an onramp for Sixty8 Capital, but there's also that talent component that you mentioned.
Kelli Jones (26:11):
Roger Shuman (26:12):
So more you wanted to, you alluded to some talent, statistics.
Kelli Jones (26:16):
Yeah, so, so when we first started, we focused on talent first. And so we had built a relationship with Eleven Fifty Academy, with Kenzie Academy to help them get more black people into their programs. And so for about three and a half years we were doing referrals, to those programs. And a lot of the black talent that went to those programs came from us. in 2020 we were able to get a grant from Microsoft. And that grant was a three year grant that allowed us to focus on increasing the number of black and brown people in tech. And we thought that was a great opportunity for us to figure out how do we now shift from just being a referral partner to these programs, to actually having our own. and so we stuck with Eleven Fifty, kind of created our own cohorts just as a test to see if we could make it happen and then build additional resources around them, like career coaching, different things like that.
Kelli Jones (27:06):
So we piloted to, cohorts in 2021. and then this year, we went full throttle. So now we are doing, cohorts once a month. we have six different areas of learning, and we've now just launched our third cohort. what's been interesting though, as we've looked at the data of the students and the people that are participating in our programs is a few things that have kind of popped up that I didn't imagine. I think the first is that we over index in women. and so the fact of the matter is there's more women in our program than men. and I think that's been something that's been really hard for a lot of programs to, to get is women. And the fact that they're all black women or all at next women, I think says a lot.
Kelli Jones (27:51):
I think the second thing that's been really interesting is that I think there was an assumption, I think probably externally and probably internally, that we'd get a lot of people that were just like high school equivalent or high school diploma, maybe some associate's degrees, but the number of bachelor degrees and even advanced degrees is way higher than we expected. But the interesting thing is the amount of money that they're making per year is actually well below average, which means that these are people that are educated, you know, they're probably in jobs that are okay, but they're getting paid nothing. And by nothing, I mean under 50K a year. And so they're using and seeking out this, these programs because they see value in up-skilling, and potentially going into another type of program or getting connected to more people that look like them in this space.
Kelli Jones (28:39):
And I see, I think that is the reason why we've been able to really grow these programs. Each group has been 30 people, in each one. and it's not stopping our our list is long, so we still have so many more in the pipeline. And so it's been really exciting to see. But what's, what's most exciting is that a few things come of that. So obviously they're getting their certifications and different trainings. They're getting kind of like one to one mentoring with our student engagement specialists. We have sessions weekly, which either career coaches or people from industry come in and talk about their experience in tech. But I think what's most interesting is that they actually get to work closely with some of our portfolio companies that are either in our accelerator programs or in the Sixty8 capital portfolio to do projects with them.
Kelli Jones (29:26):
And so it can be project management, UX design, it, whatever it may be, wherever needs they have will able to like give them, you know, people that are in training access to actual projects. And so they get also some on the job work as well. And that's something that builds a portfolio. So when they are ready to go out and get that job, either one, we can get them jobs at our portfolio companies or at the companies that are, in Be Nimble programs, or they can go out and get jobs elsewhere and actually have something to, to back up the certification.
Roger Shuman (29:58):
That's great. So I mean, it really is a ramp, not just to getting funded, but even to be able to help supply, talent.
Kelli Jones (30:06):
Roger Shuman (30:07):
That's great. Let's talk about Sixty8 Capital's mission. It's to support what you refer to as undercapitalized founders and innovators. With that in mind, how does the process differ from, from other VCs, other VC firms when it comes to vetting companies for potential investment?
Kelli Jones (30:27):
That's such a great question. I thought about this question a lot. When I was reviewing, when I was reviewing the questions when you sent them to me, and I can't say that I, that there's anything different. I think the difference is perspective, right? I think me and my background very non-traditional to VC. And so I see things in companies that I think probably other people don't see. you know, our associate that we hired, his name is Nas, he's absolutely incredible, also has a perspective, you know, so I think the first is that because we're diverse, managing directors diverse, associated, diverse venture partners, that we are actually attracting a lot of deal flow that a lot of people aren't seeing. And then we're also seeing opportunities in markets and sectors that other people don't see as an opportunity because of our background.
Kelli Jones (31:16):
A lot of our investments are cultural type of companies, like companies that are creating products or solutions for black and brown people, or diverse people or women, or even different types of business, types. You know, it's not all kind of like corporation types, businesses. We have a lot of companies that are focused on gig economy. We have a lot of companies that are focused on influencer economy and the creator economy. and so I think those things where we're seeing kind of growth in the culture are the kinds of companies that we're getting attracted to as we're thinking about portfolio construction.
Roger Shuman (31:54):
Taking a look at Indianapolis and maybe just central Indiana, are you optimistic that we're making any progress towards equity for undercapitalized or under underrepresented communities in, in our tech sector?
Kelli Jones (32:09):
You know, I'm lukewarm. I obviously think that there's a lot more conversation that's being had around it, and I think that is incredible and I think that's what all we've been asking for, for, for quite some time. I think, I think what, what has me more lukewarm is the fact that like, we've actually been talking about this for a really long time, and so what took so long for it to now become a priority, And I know the answer to that question, but, you know, it, it still doesn't, it's still disheartening sometimes to know that like, it took so much in order for us to see this as a true priority when this could have been a priority five years ago when we first started. however, that being said, I think the fact that there are more resources and more opportunities that are becoming available is exactly what we need.
Kelli Jones (32:58):
We need more. I think what I'd like to see more of is, you know, these things come from kind of a state level, city level. I would even say like kind of large industry level too. I would just love to see more black and brown organizations that are serving these populations, be engaged truly. especially those that have been, doing a lot of this work or, or at least trying to do a lot of this work on much smaller budgets for a long time that may have the capacity and the opportunity to scale up, and do a lot more. I think we're getting to a place where that can happen more frequently. but I would love to see more people that look like us at the table having these conversations on where the resources are going, or where, programs are being kind of tailored or created instead of creating something new.
Kelli Jones (33:50):
You might have some people that are already doing some stuff that we can potentially get behind and help scale up so that there's more, you know, sort of being, being dispersed around the ecosystem. And so that is something that I think I just wanna see more of, especially as we go into these conversations. But I think overall, I think the focus on it, I think the fact that there's conversations happening on it pretty regularly, I think the fact that we've not left the conversations on the table, like I think a lot of people may have, like, we're still ongoing having these conversations is important. I just wanna make sure that the community, the actual community is also actively engaged.
Roger Shuman (34:24):
And certainly you've been able to make a difference, with a handful of companies where you've made some investment already, right? So how many companies are in the portfolio today?
Kelli Jones (34:35):
Yes. So we have officially deployed 5.5 million. We have 13 companies in the portfolio. Of those 13 companies, five of them are Indiana based, or Indiana founded. all of them are diverse. We are 98% black. We have,2% Latinx. And if I break that down, cause we only have 13 companies, so I can actually that down differently. So three of our companies are Latinx founded and led. Seven of them are black, founded and led. One of them is white woman founded in lead. So a fully diverse portfolio. One of the other things that I would add to, to the previous question around what do we look at with vet companies is we do something called a diversity score. and so we not only look at the CEO and the co-founders and even the employees, we also look at board makeup.
Kelli Jones (35:23):
We look at how they're civically engaged and how they have conversations around diversity and inclusion. we look at, you know, all of the things and not just kind of what does the founder look like because we've come across companies where we might have a black founder and the rest of the team is white. And to me, that's not very diverse, right? So we wanna make sure that diversity is happening at all phases. So that's something that we look really intently, intently at, and all of our companies are very diverse from top to bottom, and that's really important for us. I think something else that we didn't think was going to happen, based on this is how much, how many of the deals that we do are with other black LED funds. actually I would say 60% of the deals that we are in have another black LED fund in them as well.
Kelli Jones (36:08):
And, I think that's a narrative that that has to be discussed and talked about too. Because what it means is, I think there's a narrative that, you know, there's not a, there's too many, you know, funds that are focused on diversity or focused on investing in, and there's not. The fact of the matter is we all talk together and we all invest together. And so the more and more that we're able to kind of come together and collaboratively get behind these businesses, I think the more of these businesses that we're really gonna see and, and the more scale that we're gonna be able to see too. So that's been an unintended consequence of, of the work, but, it's been a journey and we're still on it. So , we're excited.
Roger Shuman (36:43):
The work that you're doing, the journey you, you are on is super important. we're excited to have you right here in Indiana doing, doing that work. I hope people are watching this will be excited about what you're doing as well and figure out ways where they can, they can connect and if we have, founders that are, that are watching this, that might be a great target for you. I hope that they reach out, Kelly.
Kelli Jones (37:09):
Thanks, hope they do.
Roger Shuman (37:10):
Yeah, Kelly, thanks to your time today. Thank you. And just your, your enthusiasm in general. It's just, it's great to see what you're doing and we're excited to, to see what continues to happen with Sixty8 Capital.
Kelli Jones (37:23):
Thank you. Much more to come. Thank you so much for you and the entire TechPoint team. You guys have been supporters of us in our work from the beginning, and so I'm excited to continue our relationship. Thank you for having me.
Roger Shuman (37:35):
Thanks Kelly.


Today we talk to Kelli Jones, co-founder of both Sixty8 Capital and the Be Nimble Foundation. Sixty8 Capital is a Indiana-based venture firm dedicated to investing in diverse communities. Be Nimble is non-profit with the goal of advancing diversity initiatives to create fully inclusive tech ecosystems. In this episode we talk about Kelli’s journey to working in venture capital, the shared missions of Sixty8 Capital and Be Nimble, and what Indiana can do to be a more inclusive tech community.