Nadiyah Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based software company Jet Constellations, has partnered with New York-based information and technology services company IP Zone Co. to launch a $50 million venture capital fund. The new fund will focus on providing capital to early-stage tech companies with an emphasis on attracting startups led by people of color to Milwaukee.
Johnson, who is also a technical product manager at GE Healthcare, runs The Milkyway Tech Hub, a social impact arm of Jet Constellations that aims to transform Milwaukee into a tech hub representing the city’s diverse population.
Challenges in raising $50 million
“As it relates to capital, I understand the barriers and the challenges that present themselves. As a black woman in STEM and computer science, I think this is why I have a unique perspective. I’ve faced some pretty rough statistics already. … The statistics that we face with this fund, it’s not the scariest to me because I’ve beat the odds, to say the least. Here I am in another space where I think I have the opportunity to in fact lead by example. We say that we want capital and we say that we want to make sure that capital commits to people of color, then why not be the one to launch it?”
On possible partnerships in Milwaukee
“I want this tech fund to benefit and advance not only the tech industry and make an impact in increasing the amount of capital that is deployed to black and brown owners, but I also want to make a significant impact here in the city of Milwaukee. Those we invest in we’re encouraging and will ensure that they are either relocating here or are contributing back to the tech ecosystem in some way, shape or form that will make a significant impact. Given that, I can’t just get investors from different parts of the country. Milwaukee has to be onboard with making this impact. There’s no better time to make a statement backing black people than right now in this point in history where I think that many people are now realizing this needs to happen.”
Challenges in Milwaukee’s venture capital ecosystem
“I definitely think there’s enough capital here and I definitely think there’s enough power and brilliance here that can make this happen if they truly want it to. One of the biggest barriers that has plagued Milwaukee from progressing in this space is excuses and this fund removes that excuse. If you’re looking for a reason to support black people in tech, create socioeconomic change in Milwaukee, here’s your chance.”