By Jeffrey McKinney
Siebert Williams Shank Co. L.L.C. (SWS) is partnering with Microsoft Corp. to launch the Clear Vision Impact Fund L.L.C., with an initial $25 million seed investment from the software giant.
The nation’s largest minority-and-women-owned financial firm, SWS reports that the investment fund will have a target size of $250 million. It will invest growth and operating capital in small and medium-sized businesses, with an emphasis on minority-owned businesses, to maximize social impact.
SWS reports the “fund” is the first of its kind the firm has created to make available to minority-owned firms, including black businesses. It expects to focus on small and medium-sized businesses, with an emphasis on those that are minority- and women-owned, that, in general, have enterprise values of less than $100 million. SWS added the investments look to target companies demonstrating an operating track record, with sustainable business models, companies that operate in or serve underserved markets, and companies fostering inclusive growth initiatives.
The objective of the partnership between Microsoft and SWS is to mitigate the deficits in capital access that minority-owned businesses often encounter, thereby enhancing the positive impact that these companies have on the communities in which they operate.
“We are extremely pleased to have Microsoft’s critical support in delivering the commercial and social resources necessary to strengthen underperforming communities,” Chris Williams, chairman of SWS, stated in a news release. “Our role in helping to implement Microsoft’s vision of community support is a recognition of the vital role that small businesses play in their communities, particularly during this period of widespread economic distress.”
The fresh funding is needed. Gaining access to capital to start or expand businesses has long been and continues to be an ongoing challenge for minority-owned firms.
Suzanne Shank, president and CEO of SWS, added, “This is the beginning of a long-term commitment by Microsoft and by our firm to continue to address the decades of underinvestment in communities of color and the persistently limited access to capital for entrepreneurs in those communities. We are thrilled that Microsoft has recognized the value of this endeavor and we are confident others will follow.”
Commenting as well, Tahreem Kampton, assistant treasurer and CIO at Microsoft, stated, “We’re pleased to continue our 10-year relationship with Siebert Williams Shank to partner together to create new opportunities and expand access to capital for minority-owned small businesses.
“There is much work to do to reduce the technology gaps that exist in our ecosystem today. This is just the first step to building a more diverse and equitable playing field and we look forward to the opportunities that this investment will help create.”
The fund expects to deliver value beyond providing capital solutions to financial sponsors and entrepreneurs. It aims to do that by leveraging both SWS’s national network of relationships and its visibility and reputation within the minority business community.