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OpenAI chairman Bret Taylor’s decision to leave his position as co-CEO of Salesforce to start a new company called Sierra with Google Labs veteran Clay Bavor sparked a frenzy among investors. Venture capital firms Benchmark and Sequoia were among those who invested millions in the startup, which is now valued at nearly $1 billion. Bavor reached out to an unlikely venture capitalist, former Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula nonprofit director Sean Mendy, to join the investment. Mendy’s firm, Westbound Equity Partners, focuses on providing capital to underrepresented founders, particularly Black and Latino ones, and startups that serve their communities.

Westbound Equity Partners was founded in 2019 and has invested in more than 40 startups with a focus on diversity and equity. The firm is committed to building a diverse and representative company culture from the outset. With a new $100 million second fund, Westbound is looking to make bigger bets and lead rounds at the early stages of startup development. Institutional investors behind Westbound include Google parent Alphabet, MetLife, the Ford Foundation, and several other prominent firms. The firm commits 50% of its profits to fund a foundation that supports equity-focused nonprofit organizations and programs.

Sean Mendy, a Bay Area native and former Boys & Girls Club director, founded Westbound Equity Partners with the goal of scaling his impact beyond the local community. The firm’s mission is to invest in the best companies for performance, with a focus on underrepresented founders. Mendy’s background includes playing soccer for Cornell, founding a startup, and earning graduate degrees from Stanford and USC. The firm has a diverse team of partners, including Ian Beadle and Will Bumpus, who are also Black. The partners launched Concrete Rose Capital in 2019, with a focus on underrepresented founders and diverse startup communities.

Despite challenges faced by underrepresented founders in the venture capital industry, Westbound Equity Partners has thrived and continued to grow. The firm has maintained a cautious approach to new relationships and fundraising efforts, particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. By focusing on performance and impact, Westbound has attracted a strong group of institutional investors and has supported companies like Sierra and Esusu, a credit-building rent payments tool. The firm’s partnership now includes Danae Sterental, a corporate culture expert, who joined in 2020.

The name Westbound Equity Partners reflects the firm’s focus on equity and its mission to support underrepresented founders. The team at Westbound works to provide guidance and support for founders navigating the challenges of building successful companies while also representing their communities. Mendy and his team aim to create value that benefits the community through their investments and partnerships. Founders like Wemimo Abbey of Esusu have praised Westbound for its support and commitment to diversity and equity in the startup ecosystem. The firm’s dedication to supporting underrepresented founders and building a more inclusive industry is at the core of its mission.

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