By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

Baltimore-based Latimer Ventures, a Black-owned, early stage venture capital firm, recently announced a close of $15 million for its fund launched exclusively for Black and Brown technology founders. In total, Latimer Ventures intends to raise $50 million for the fund. 

Luke Cooper is the founder of Latimer Ventures, a venture capital fund that seeks to invest in Black and Brown enterprise technology founders and execute mergers and acquisitions with Fortune 1000 companies. The fund recently announced $15 million in fundraising. (Photo Courtesy of Governor’s Office)

The mission of the company is to deploy capital to minority enterprise technology companies and  connect them with corporate acquirers to achieve eight- to 10-figure business exits. Notable investors in the first round included Dug Song, cofounder of Duo, and Martin Nesbitt, co-CEO of the Vistria Group.  

“I’m excited about tech because 50 percent of all new wealth will come from tech entrepreneurship,” said Luke Cooper, founder  of Latimer Ventures. “I get to go create that for tons and tons of founders who look like me.” 

Cooper, who hails from Bridgeport, Conn., was inspired to create Latimer Ventures after selling his mobile device support and repair company, Fixt, in 2020. After attaining 300 percent year-over-year growth and raising $6.5 million in capital, he hit a wall. 

Assurant, a global insurance company, acquired the company and subsequently doubled its stock and grew its revenue significantly. In total, Cooper said the acquisition earned Assurant $500 million of new value.

“We got pittance compared to that. We didn’t make $500 million, so where’s the disconnect? In analyzing that, there were two things that were missing from my outcome being a bigger one.” said Cooper. “One is just the dearth of capital that is available to later stage Black founders who are doing enterprise tech. Then secondly, there’s very few venture capitalists who have deep connectivity with Fortune 500 corporate development teams and can help navigate that outcome for Black Founders.” 

He created Latimer Ventures in January 2022 to spur better outcomes for Black-owned enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups. 

Cooper named his company after Lewis Latimer, a Black inventor from Chelsea, Mass. who streamlined the manufacturing method for carbon filaments in lightbulbs during the late 1800s. The innovator worked closely with Thomas Edison to enhance the lightbulb. 

“My investment in tech is not just about wealth creation, it’s also about the demonstration of how elegantly designed products can be when you allow more people from diverse backgrounds to participate in the process,” said Cooper.  

In his personal time, Cooper also advises Black-owned businesses that operate outside of the technology space. 

Aleah Rae and Marvin Montague, owners of Meat the Mushroom, have received mentorship from Cooper since 2022. The couple met him last summer while selling their plant-based bacon at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market. 

“He came up to our stall, tasted our bacon and went off. He came back later and said, ‘Man, this bacon is amazing, tell me about your company,’” Marvin said. Montague. “I told him the great things about our company and what we struggled with, and he was really interested in helping our company.”

Marvin followed up with Cooper after their initial encounter and forged a business relationship with him. 

“Marvin and I have always been hungry for help in this journey,” said Aleah Rae. “Luke was willing to offer it, and we wanted to soak up every bit that we could.”

The couple’s major obstacle to growing and scaling Meat the Mushroom at the time was a lack of capital. Cooper took it upon himself to introduce the couple to local programs that provided funding to Black-owned businesses. 

One was Innovation Works’ Ignite Capital, which provided the Montagues with their first six-figure investment last year.  

“We talked to him about our struggles with finding funding as a minority,” said Marvin Montague. “He told me that his life goal was helping people that look like us find funding because he knew how pivotal it is for companies.” 

Being first-generation entrepreneurs, the Montagues expressed that Cooper is an inspiration and mentor to them. 

Over the course of 2021, Meat the Mushroom grossed $40,000. Today, the brand brings in $40,000 monthly, shipping hundreds of “shroomacon” packs each week and occupying the shelves of nearly 50 retail stores. The Montagues expect to hit more than half a million dollars in sales this year.

“Of course it’s possible to create and sell a multimillion dollar company. Luke did it, and he’s somebody that eats our bacon and is our friend,” said Aleah Rae Montague. “We hear so much about how representation matters, but it really does. Knowing that he’s succeeded inspires us.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report For America corps member.