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Black-owned, Arkansas venture capital firm receives second major investment

Business Wall Street

Black-owned, Arkansas venture capital firm receives second major investment


By The Arkansas Black Vitality Staff ­– Little Rock-based High Street Equity Partners, Arkansas’s first Black-led venture capital firm, has received its second major investment that will go toward assisting underserved startups and tech firms seeking to scale up.

On November 10, High Street announced an unspecified investment from Arkansas Capital Corp., the Little Rock Rock-based community development finance company formed by Winthrop Rockefeller and other top Arkansas business leaders in 1957 committed to revitalizing communities in Arkansas and beyond.

“Arkansas Capital Corp. and High Street Equity Partners share a mission to improve our communities,” said Mitch Brooks, general partner for High Street Equity. “This investment is significant as we work to build up technology companies within the state of Arkansas. We know that when we work together to empower those in our community who need it most, we are uplifting everyone.”

Founded in 2021, High Street is led by general partners Brooks and Tristan Wilkerson, owner of Little Rock-based public relations and marketing firm, Think Rubix. Wilkerson also currently serves on the board of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority and chairs the Foundation for Social Impact – a 501(c)3 nonprofit that seeks to expand entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The fast-growing investment firm has offices in Little Rock and Washington, D.C., where it focuses on investments in diverse startup teams whose companies are composed of one or more historically underrepresented founders.

The Arkansas Capital investment will go toward the $15 million inaugural fund that High Street Equity Partners announced to capitalize businesses across the Heartland and underrepresented geographies across the nation. The new investment will allow early-stage venture capital firm to focus on supporting the growth of Arkansas-based tech companies with an emphasis on underrepresented founders.

The cash infusion will also expand the reach of Black-owned venture capital firm to directly invest in emerging, tech-enabled businesses poised to scale, particularly among minority founders who have historically faced challenges securing venture capital.

“We are thrilled to join High Street in their mission to improve and create value in Arkansas communities,” Arkansas Capital CEO Sam Walls said. “Focusing on stimulating economic growth and empowering entrepreneurs in underserved communities is vital to create equal opportunity for everyone in the community to thrive.”

Additionally, High Street continues to actively connect with entrepreneurial support organizations across the Heartland, while working to engage with locally based institutions and individuals looking to support mission-driven, return-focused equity investments.

Earlier on Nov. 3, High Street announced its first major investment by Bank of America for Fund I, the firm’s initial institutional investor. Bank of America’s investment will further High Street’s mission to support revenue-generating companies across the U.S., emphasizing diverse entrepreneurs who historically face disadvantages securing capital.

“It is not enough to want change. We must take action to create opportunities to support those with a passion and a vision to grow,” said Renee Nalbandyan, director of global corporate strategy for Bank of America, the nation’s second-largest financial institution by assets. “We are thrilled to partner with High Street as we work together for a better and more equitable world.”

Overall, Bank of America has committed $1.25 billion to advance racial equality and create economic opportunity, of which over $400 million is allocated to investments in minority-focused funds like High Street. That financial promise was part of the nation’s second-largest bank’s four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity first announced amid nationwide protests following the George Floyd shooting in May 2020.

Nearly two years ago, Bank of America announced it was making a $50 million commitment toward acquiring approximately 4.9% of common equity in seven Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority-owned banks. Southern Bancorp Inc., Arkansas largest (CDFIs), was among the banking institutions that received the equity investment from Charlotte, N.C.-based banking colossus, which has total assets of more than $1 trillion.

High Street is named after the former Little Rock street which was later changed to Martin Luther King Avenue. The area was once the center of cultural commerce among diverse entrepreneurs and business owners. It is one of Arkansas’ most unique pieces of history, similar to the Greenwood District in Tulsa in the early 1900s.

In 2022, High Street announced a $15 million inaugural fund to invest in industry-agnostic technology companies in the seed stage. Previous High Street investments targeted early-stage firms such as Happied, ChargerHelp, and Campus Ink.

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