Trailblazing Women of BLCK VC

Celebrating Diversity and Innovation in Venture Capital

9 min readMar 29, 2024

As we honor Women’s History Month, it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate the profound impact women have made in various industries, including venture capital. Within the BLCK VC community, numerous women have dedicated themselves to shaping the landscape of entrepreneurship and investment, contributing their expertise, leadership, and unwavering commitment to excellence. In this article, we shine a spotlight on eight remarkable women whose contributions have been pivotal to the success of BLCK VC. Through their dedication, they have not only elevated the voices of underrepresented investors and founders but also paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse venture capital ecosystem. From co-founding initiatives to advocating for gender and racial equality, these women have left an indelible mark on the venture capital landscape, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

Note: List is alphabetical by last name.

Anita Lynch

Anita Lynch, Board Member — Nasdaq U.S. Exchanges

Anita Lynch is a data leader, corporate board director, advisor and educator. Anita has made significant contributions to the BLCK VC community as a program alumni of Black Venture Institute (BVI) and Board Member of the org. She has led data initiatives contributing to the rapid scale of global consumer businesses at Disney, Amazon, Yahoo and Apple, leveraging the power of data while creating a safer digital world through governance. She is among the first African American women to serve as Chief Data Officer for a US public company. For 20+ years, she has worked to bridge business, technology and data strategies to drive positive change.

Recognition and speaking engagements include: the San Francisco Business Times “Top 100 Most Influential Women in Business”; and one of the “Top 8 Female Analytics Experts” in Forbes. In 2022, she received the Culture Shift Award for Technology, Innovation, and Social Impact in Silicon Valley. Ms. Lynch holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a BS in Economics from Northwestern University, and two patents for her work on trading system algorithms at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Baheejah Crumbley

Baheejah Crumbley, Investor — Collab Capital

Baheejah Crumbley serves as an Investment Associate at Collab Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to empowering Black founders in critical sectors. Her role involves sourcing, due diligence, portfolio support, and staying attuned to industry trends. Baheejah’s expertise spans finance and technology, cultivated through positions at Vestigo Ventures and Twitter’s Corporate/Revenue Finance division. She is a distinguished graduate of Spelman College and is actively involved in empowering Black investors as the Founding Co-Lead of BLCK VC’s Boston Chapter. Additionally, Baheejah serves on the Board of Directors for the Make A Play Foundation and contributes her expertise to various initiatives addressing wealth gap disparities. She is also a Venture Mentor, Advisor, Panelist, and Judge for institutions fostering diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Beyond her professional commitments, Baheejah finds solace in traveling, enjoying diverse cuisines, and embracing holistic self-connection through jazz music, Shiatsu massages, and yoga. She lives by the mantra, “Lean into discomfort. We grow the most when we’re uncomfortable,” guiding both her personal and professional journey.

Candice Morgan

Candice Morgan, Partner + Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion — GV

Candice Morgan, a trailblazer in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives, has dedicated her career to fostering inclusive workplaces and supporting underrepresented talent in the technology industry. As the first-ever EDI partner in venture capital at GV, she focuses on breaking down barriers and transforming organizations into the workplaces of the future. Candice’s innovative leadership roles include pioneering diversity efforts at Pinterest, where she developed inclusive product management strategies and spearheaded global user growth. Her expertise in organizational change management and effective ESG strategies has earned her recognition, including honors from Fast Company and The Root. A Carnegie Mellon University graduate, Candice’s commitment to inclusion extends to her roles as a board director for Women Who Code, BVI program alumni, Fund Forward Committee member, and BLCK VC Steering Committee member.

De’Havia Stewart

De’Havia Stewart, Investor — Serena Ventures

De’Havia is an investor on the team at Serena Ventures, where she assists with sourcing, with diligencing, and with portfolio support of early stage startups. De’Havia has a passion and makes an effort to help increase diverse representation in venture capital as she actively supports underrepresented founders and investors. De’Havia began her venture capital career supporting SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, where she helped invest $100M+ into early stage founders led by underrepresented minorities, which includes investments such as Quicknode ($800M most recent valuation at Series B in 2023), Lula AI (raised $35M Series B in 2023), and Cloverly (raised $19M Series A in 2023). She is also an alumni of BLCK VC’s Breaking into Venture program and has served as a speaker and mentor to BiV program fellows. De’Havia also serves as chapter co-lead of BLCK VC’s Atlanta Chapter.

Prior to venture capital, Stewart worked in strategy consulting at Accenture, in which she assisted Fortune 500 companies with developing their strategic vision across Retail, CPG, Financial Services, and Media & Telecom. De’Havia is a graduate of Florida A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

Denise Smith

Denise Smith, Consultant — SEI

Denise Smith is a seasoned leader with a remarkable track record spanning over two decades in product and technology operations, strategic communications, and mergers and acquisitions. A trusted advisor to venture-backed, angel, and private equity companies, Denise excels in guiding them through growth acceleration and challenging turnarounds. Beyond her professional achievements, she is deeply committed to youth development and community empowerment. Denise’s dedication to making a significant impact is evident in her involvement as a speaker and former advisory team member of the BVI program, embodying resilience, dedication, and transformative thinking throughout her career.

Leyla Seka

Leyla Seka, Investor & Chair — Operator Collective

Leyla Seka is a veteran enterprise SaaS executive and nationally recognized advocate for gender and racial equality. Most recently, she was COO of Ironclad, the leader in digital contracting. Prior to Ironclad, Leyla spent many years as a VC with Operator Collective and nearly twelve years as an EVP at Salesforce, where she built and scaled iconic products like the AppExchange,, and Salesforce Mobile. While at Salesforce, Leyla pioneered their equal pay initiative, which led to raises for more than 10% of the women at the company.

In 2020 Leyla co-founded Black Venture Institute (BVI), an immersive education program designed to 5x the number of Black check writers in venture capital. She serves as a board director of Girls Who Code and Oakland Museum of California. Leyla holds a BS in international relations and French from the University of California, Davis, and an MBA from the Masagung School at the University of San Francisco. Leyla also spent two years in Mali, West Africa, as a Peace Corps officer. All that said, her greatest joy is her family.

Mandy Howard

Mandy Howard, Investor

Mandy Howard is a seasoned product manager and VC investor. She spent the last two years as an investor at Foundry, where she invested in technology companies and seed funds and utilized her product experience to support portfolio companies. Her expertise includes building B2B SaaS products 0-to-1 and scaling them from 1-to-n in a scale-up environment.

Before joining Foundry, Mandy was a lead product manager at ServiceTitan and Comprehend Systems (acquired by Saama), where she developed integration-driven products. She started her career in life sciences, working in sales and systems consulting. Mandy was introduced to BLCK VC in the fall of 2020 as a Black Venture Institute (BVI) fellow (cohort 1!) and received its first Inspire Award in 2022. She also participated in BLCK VC’s Mentorship and Scout programs and now serves as a frequent speaker at BLCK VC’s programs. Mandy credits several members of the BLCK VC community for encouraging and supporting her journey into venture. She previously led programming for Black Product Managers and is a mentor to founders, product managers, and investors.

Martha Teka

Martha Teka, Investor — Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Martha is currently a Senior Associate on the Venture Impact Investing team at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Before joining CZI, she worked as an investor at Telescope Partners, specializing in early-growth B2B SaaS investments. Prior to that, Martha gained experience in corporate strategy at Bright Health Group, a diversified healthcare startup. She initiated her career in management consulting, where she contributed to various projects spanning strategy, operations, and diligence across healthcare, retail, and technology sectors. Martha has also been actively involved with BLCK VC’s Breaking into Venture (BiV) as a speaker, mentor, and member of the program advisory team, supporting initiatives to empower Black investors and promote diversity in the industry.

Nina Ohiku

Nina Ohiku, Advisor at Cap Table Coalition & Business Development Lead — Finix

Nina is a seasoned professional in both finance and business development and for the last two years, she’s been responsible for business development & investor relations at Finix, a trailblazer in the payments processing landscape. During this time, she has also assumed stewardship of the Cap Table Coalition — an angel investing syndicate with over 1,000 investors that has deployed $35M+ across a portfolio of nearly 70 companies — which spun out of Finix’s own commitment to ensuring and enabling diversity on their cap table. Nina champions inclusivity by spotlighting and supporting underserved and underrepresented investors, thereby enriching the startup ecosystem with a diversity of thought and experience. Her professional journey is marked by achievements at Credit Suisse’s Global Industrials Group, Parker Hannifin, and in the environmental sector serving chemicals, refining and oil & gas.

Nina holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She has contributed her expertise to the BLCK VC Midwest Chapter’s event committee, working to create meaningful opportunities for underrepresented investors and entrepreneurs in the region. Through her multifaceted contributions, Nina continues to drive positive change and promote inclusivity across various sectors.

Sydney Sykes

Sydney Sykes, Partner — Lightspeed Venture Partners

Sydney is currently a Partner on the Consumer team at Lightspeed Venture Partners in Silicon Valley. Previously, she served as an early-stage investor at NEA, where she developed a passion for consumer startups and gained experience in angel investing. Sydney is also known for co-founding BLCK VC, the largest network of Black Venture Capital investors, where she now serves as the Board Co-Chair. Her diverse experience also includes working at Dolls Kill, focusing on native brand growth and strategy. Sydney is a graduate of Harvard University, where she studied psychology and economics, and she earned her MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Through her leadership and contributions, Sydney continues to make a significant impact on the venture capital landscape, championing diversity and innovation within the industry.




Connecting, Empowering and Advancing Black Venture Investors. We are the change that we seek!