Adeyemi Ajao is one of Spain’s most successful entrepreneurs. Now he’s making his mark in Northern California’s Silicon Valley. The venture capital firm he co-owns, Base10 Partners, has become the first Black-Led VC firm to surpass $1 billion in assets under management (AUM).
On April 5, the firm reached total AUM of more than $1 billion. Base10 raised a $460 million fund for early-stage investments, bringing its total assets under management to $1.3 billion. Base10 is the first Black-led firm to cross $1 billion in assets, according data the firm provided to Insider by Crunchbase.
“It’s crazy that in a world where venture capital raises $150 billion a quarter, we are the first one. There should be multiple by now,” Ajao said.
“I think it will take no time to see the second Black-led fund cross $1 billion,” he told Forbes, shouting out 645 Ventures, Harlem Capital, Kindred Ventures, Plexo Capital, and Precursor Ventures as rising Black-back funds.
Base10 has seen a fast rise. In 2021, it launched the Advancement Initiative, a $300 million growth-stage fund that has a portion of its returns earmarked to fund scholarships for historically Black colleges and universities. The firm committed to route 50 percent of carried interest into endowments and scholarships at HBCUs. “They have $5 million max to deploy to venture capital,” Ajao told Business Insider.
Ajao, who was born to a Spanish mother and Nigerian father, is expecting even more investors to add more funding.
San Francisco-based Base10 Partners was founded in 2018 by managing partners Ajao and TJ Nahigian. The firm uses a data-driven approach to invest in automation tech across various sectors such as food and retail, Forbes reported.
The firm created an automated software tool to track startups in real time with a set of predictive data points. Out of the 15,000 companies Base10 follows, it made 64 investments.
“There are way too many companies out there,” Ajao said. “By our calculations, there are 110 new deals per day that our VCs have to look at, so we have to find a way to focus and filter that.”
In Spain, Ajao is known as the tech entrepreneur who took on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. He did so with his own social media platform, Tuenti, which he co-founded. Ultimately, Tuenti eventually lost to Facebook in “a hard-fought battle for users in Spain, it didn’t stop Ajao from going on to define the tech world in other ways,” Sifted reported.
Ajao sold Tuenti to Spanish telecom giant Telefonica in 2010 for nearly $85 million. He went on to co-found big data company Identified, which was acquired by Workday in 2014.
Entrepreneurism runs in his family.
“I had a role model at home. My dad had been an entrepreneur, so I knew it was possible,” he said.
His father also prepared him for being a young Black man in a white-dominated sector.
Aja told Sifted, “I also knew and heard from him often, ‘Look, everything is going to be more difficult for you because you look different, and because you look different, people are wired not to trust you as much or not give you as much credit, so you’re going to have to try twice as hard. You should expect that the first answer is going to be ‘no,’ and that’s fine; now you know it, and now you have to deal with it and be better.’”
Ajao has more than proved himself and now he’s making historic moves with Base10.
In its first two funds the firm invested heavily in food tech. Base10 led the seed round in restaurant marketing startup PopMenu, which is now valued at $525 million. Base10 also incubated cloud kitchens company All Day Kitchens ($375 million). Now with its new fund, the firm wants to move into other spaces such as African fintech.
Base10’s new early-stage fund follows a $137 million Fund I in 2018 and a $250 million Fund II in 2020. So far, the firm has invested in about 30 companies per fund with extensive lead checks of up to $15 million that would give it 15 percent to 20 percent stakes in a startup, according to Forbes.
About 60 percent of its investments has been issued to companies with minority founders and the firm donates 1 percent of profits to causes supporting diversity. It also promotes efforts for Black people enter the tech sector and entrepreneurship.
Ajao said the effort to increase the presence of Blacks in the venture capital sector must continue — and that the industry must be pressured to fulfill diversity promises made following in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police in May 2020. “We shouldn’t let people forget that all these things were said and all these promises were made,” Ajao said. “We have to keep going because if not, no one will.”