In his leisure time, venture capitalist Marlon Nichols enjoys watching and playing sports. But while he’s spent much of April living in Miami near AmericanAirlines Arena, the NBA Miami Heat have hardly been his first priority.
He’s the first VC in Residence at Code Fever, a Miami organization that provides entrepreneur training to underserved communities. The group also launched Black Tech Week to build technology awareness in these areas.
Nichols said Code Fever reached out to him via Twitter to attend a Black Tech Week event. It was there that Code Fever Co-Founder Felecia Hatcher and her husband and co-founder, Derick Pearson, persuaded Nichols to come to Miami to meet and advise local startups as part of Black Tech Week’s inaugural VC in Residence program.
Hatcher is a prominent entrepreneur and technology pioneer, while Pearson spearheaded the STEM Energy Lab under the administration of President Barack Obama. The program, one of the first of its kind, aims to bring top VCs to advise and guide black, Latino and Caribbean entrepreneurs.
Miami, known as the Magic City, is some 3,000 miles Nichols’s base in Silicon Valley, where he’s co-founder and general partner at early-stage venture firm Cross Culture Ventures. The firm, which focuses on culture and has made 11 investments so far, including seven in California, is headquartered in Palo Alto and has an office in Culver City, California, as well.
Nichols wouldn’t disclose the size of the firm’s fund, but he said it was raised by family offices, high-net-worth individuals, institutions and corporates. 500 Startups is also an LP.
Although Miami isn’t one of the nation’s hotbeds for venture firms and VC-backed startups, Nichols was excited to go. The investor, who is Jamaican-born and grew up in New York, believes in the disruption of venture capital. He says that large market opportunities in various sectors are waiting to be unlocked, but that most venture capitalists aren’t paying attention to them.
“I view the VC in Residence program as an opportunity to learn about an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem and some of the challenges and opportunities specific to the community,” Nichols said. “It’s a great template that is in line with the distributed model that the venture capital community is moving towards.”
It’s not yet known who will be the next VC in Residence, although Nichols urges other VCs to explore the program.
Before founding Cross Culture two years ago, Nichols was an investment director at Intel Capital, where he led investments in women- and minority-led tech startups through the firm’s Diversity Fund.
Asked whether he plans to invest in any of the startups he’s met in Miami, Nichols said it was too early to say.
“That would be an ideal scenario, but the idea is to learn and leave here with a large Rolodex of contacts to stay connected with,” he said. “I hope to get ingrained to the startup ecosystem here. But that is not going to happen after a month.”
Action Item: For more about Code Fever and Black Tech Week’s VC in Residence program: blacktechweek.com/funding/
Photo of Marlon Nichols courtesy of Cross Culture Ventures