Mastercard invests in Fearless Fund, partners with Greenwood

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Mastercard announced Tuesday a multimillion dollar investment in Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm founded by Black women with the mission of investing in minority female entrepreneurs.

The credit card giant also unveiled a partnership with Greenwood, a fintech firm aimed at Black and Latinx consumers and business owners, to issue the platform’s first debit cards.

“This is part of our broader work on financial inclusion,” Mastercard president of strategic growth Michael Froman told CNBC. “We want to bring all the assets of the company to the table, to engage with them, help them succeed, help them get to scale.”

Fearless Fund looks to provide early financing to companies started by women of color in the technology, consumer packaged goods, food, fashion and beauty industries.

Other investors in Fearless Fund include PayPal, Bank of America and Costco.

The three co-founders of Fearless Fund are chief development officer Keshia Knight-Pulliam, who played Rudy Huxtable on the “Cosby Show;” CEO Arian Simone, an entrepreneur and best-selling author; and COO Ayana Parsons, a veteran consultant.

Arian Simone speaks at Girlboss Rally NYC 2018 at Knockdown Center on November 17, 2018 in Maspeth, New York.

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Simone told CNBC the Mastercard investment has the potential to be a game changer for the companies in the fund’s portfolio.

“This deal also marks a major milestone for our brand,” she said. “When women of color are provided with the necessary resources and funding to launch their businesses, the sky’s the limit.”

Women of color are “notoriously underfunded,” Simone said, adding that they don’t typically rely on big institutional investments when creating their business plans. “They are prepared to bootstrap and [are] in the mindset that they will need to be the primary driving force behind their ideas,” she added.

Black and Latinx female founders have received less than 1% of venture capital funding, according to a 2020 report from Digital Undivided.

“When a company such as Mastercard provides this level of funding to propel women of color founders, it takes everything that these women are already doing and maximizes it to a degree that will allow them to shake any industry they enter,” Simone said.

The exact amount Mastercard agreed to invest in Fearless Fund was not disclosed.

Last September, the credit card giant made a $500 million commitment to support Black communities and help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap over the next five years.

“There are a lot of changes happening in the VC world, with all the announcements and commitments being made by big corporations to invest in diverse fund managers, but we will have to see if all are truly executing and operationalizing based on their statements,” Simone said.

“Mastercard is following through on its commitment, but we must make sure everyone is making a systemic change rather than following a trend. What I’m really hoping to see from investors is a larger focus on inclusion.”

Mastercard to help Greenwood issue debt cards

Greenwood will issue two Mastercard-backed debit cards that offer features like identity theft protection, credit monitoring and airport concierge service.

The service was co-founded by civil rights leader Andrew Young, rapper-activist Michael “Killer Mike” Render and Ryan Glover, founder of the Bounce TV Network.

“It’s encouraging to know that Mastercard is aligned with our mission of economic empowerment for people of color,” said Glover, chairman of Greenwood. The alliance also provides “Greenwood customers will get a best-in-class product and the tools to grow wealth,” he added.

Mastercard and Greenwood are also partnering on a financial podcast and other educational content on banking, financial planning, home ownership and wealth creation designed to engage the Black and Latinx communities.

Greenwood, which launched last October, already has a waitlist of more than 500,000 people. The Greenwood Debit Mastercard is expected to be available later this year.

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