End racism. Make money. Kathryn Finney says Black entrepreneurs can do both.

Kathryn Finney's Genius Guild is raising millions to make sure Black people benefit financially from solving racism.

Kathryn Finney of the Genius Guild.

Kathryn Finney's goal is to invest in and support Black founders who are building solutions to end racism.

Photo: Genius Guild

Racism is prevalent, systemic and painful.

And it's due time for Black people to benefit financially from its eradication, Kathryn Finney, founder of Genius Guild, told Protocol. Her goal is to invest in and support Black founders who are building solutions to end racism.

And there's a larger question Finney, who has long worked in the nonprofit world, hopes to answer: "Is American capitalism big enough for all of us?"

The burden of solving racism oftentimes falls on those who are most marginalized — Black people and other people of color — she said, without any economic upside.

Ending racism may sound like a lofty goal, and the resources Finney is assembling may seem small against the sheer magnitude of the task. But she's starting with a $10 million venture fund, the Greenhouse Fund; Genius Guild Labs, an incubator for entrepreneurs' startup ideas; and Genius Guild Studio, which will help promote them. The idea is to tap into the vast amount of capital that gets left on the table due to anti-racist systems and practices, Finney said. The United States economy, for example, has missed out on $16 trillion by not addressing racial gaps between Black people and white people, according to a 2020 Citi Global Perspectives and Solutions report.

Finney has yet to raise the full $10 million for Greenhouse Fund, but said conversations are getting to the point "where we'll be oversubscribed." Separately, Finney has already raised $5 million from investors including Pivotal Ventures, The Impact Seat and others to support Genius Guild's operations. The investments in the incubator and studio are separate from the fund.

The Impact Seat President Barbara Clarke said Genius Guild's team provides Black entrepreneurs with access to "smart capital." That's novel, Clarke said in an email, because the tech industry has long excluded Black founders from access to both capital and the softer forms of support venture capital provides, like introductions to customers and help with recruiting.

Greenhouse Fund seeks to invest in three core areas. The first is restructuring capital in the Black community. Finney said she's looking at companies, for example, rethinking financial technologies for the Black community.

The second is healthy environments and healthy communities. Finney said she's been interested in solutions that help Black people get more involved in clinical trials; struggles recruiting Black participants for coronavirus vaccine trials have contributed to mistrust of the vaccines.

Belonging and connectivity is the final prong. For this area, Finney is looking at companies developing and connecting communities. She said technology like Houseparty and Facebook's Portal device have been a "lifesaver" for her mom and her friends.

There are already some examples of community-oriented startups for people of color, like Ethel's Club and Somewhere Good.

Finney said Greenhouse Fund is making early investments in companies founded by Black entrepreneurs. (She said she wasn't ready to disclose any investments yet.)

Genius Guild's thesis is something Finney said she had been thinking about for a long time. She had noticed businesses profitably tackling climate change, but hadn't found any examples of businesses addressing racism in that same way.

"With racism, it's usually a nonprofit or very detached approach," she said.

Finney stepped down from her nonprofit digitalundivided last year. "To be a black woman builder and innovator — to be me — in the nonprofit world is to be constantly undervalued," she wrote in an essay explaining her decision.

At Genius Guild, the plan is to tackle racism through innovation and create additional financial wealth in the Black community. Even her staff will share in the firm's carry, or the profits realized from successful investments.

"I feel like we should have some benefit from our pain," Finney said. "We are the victims yet we don't get ... the economic benefits that come from solutions. That is one of the underpinnings of Genius Guild."


The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling is bad news for tech regulation, too

The justices just gave themselves a lot of discretion to smack down agency rules.

The ruling could also endanger work on competition issues by the FTC and net neutrality by the FCC.

Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s decision last week gutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn’t just signal the conservative justices’ dislike of the Clean Air Act at a moment of climate crisis. It also served as a warning for anyone that would like to see more regulation of Big Tech.

At the heart of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in West Virginia v. EPA was a codification of the “major questions doctrine,” which, he wrote, requires “clear congressional authorization” when agencies want to regulate on areas of great “economic and political significance.”

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

Microsoft said accessibility goals overrode problems with emotion recognition and Google offers off-the-shelf emotion recognition technology amid growing concern over the controversial AI.

Emotion recognition is a well established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

In fact, amid growing concerns over development and use of controversial emotion recognition in everyday software, both Microsoft and Google continue to incorporate the AI-based features in their products.

“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.


How I decided to shape Microsoft’s climate agenda

Lucas Joppa went from studying ecology to shaping one of the tech industry’s most robust climate plans. Here’s why — and why CEOs should consider hiring more people like him.

Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer of Microsoft, told Protocol about the company's plans.

Photo: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Click banner image for more How I decided series

Microsoft has set a number of lofty climate and environmental goals. Forget net zero: It wants to be carbon negative by 2030. Ditto for water.

Keep Reading Show less
Brian Kahn

Brian ( @blkahn) is Protocol's climate editor. Previously, he was the managing editor and founding senior writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate site, where he covered everything from the weather to Big Oil's influence on politics. He also reported for Climate Central and the Wall Street Journal. In the even more distant past, he led sleigh rides to visit a herd of 7,000 elk and boat tours on the deepest lake in the U.S.


There’s a secret hub for fintech talent: Look south

Far from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, Atlanta has long been a hub for payments technology.

Atlanta hasn’t gotten its share of the fintech buzz, perhaps because its founders are less prone to tweetstorming.

Illustration: iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol

San Francisco has Square, Stripe and Plaid. But Atlanta has CoreCard, Kabbage and CheckFree. It also lays claim to pioneering charge cards, electronic payments and ATMs. Many of the everyday innovations in fintech we’ve come to rely on have the Atlanta metropolitan area to thank.

Yet Atlanta hasn’t gotten its share of the fintech buzz, perhaps because its founders are less prone to tweetstorming and its products don’t have developers rhapsodizing about APIs. Atlanta’s fintech scene has developed around a stabler, more cautious ethos: less move fast and break things, more stay safe and build things. At a time when fintech valuations have fallen sharply from their lofty peaks and regulators are circling, that may make Atlanta a more favorable place to place fintech bets, whether that means founding a company, investing or hiring local talent.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Latest Stories