Black & Abroad founders Kent Johnson and Eric Martin have expressed their wariness of seeking venture capital for their start-up travel company. Johnson and Martin believe that involving outside investors may limit their control over their company, which is not ideal in keeping with the set values.
“This is for us, by us” Martin explained to Skift.com, “Once you give up that control, especially for this type of company, you lose the trust that we’ve worked so hard to build.”
Based out of Atlanta, Black & Abroad seeks to create experiences for travelers of color to explore their identity in a welcoming place. Their company is guided by three principles: explore, embrace, and empower. Johnson and Martin’s aim is “redefining world experiences for the modern black traveler.”
They offer group and private trips, events, activities, and tourism consultations, and work with various media companies and influencers. Black & Abroad works with black-owned enterprises when planning trips. Recently, the company offered a Paris tour that included the Afropunk festival, and a black history tour – 40 different participants from all over the world attended the trip. For the tour, they hired a black tour guide, and even a black sommelier.
Both founders fear they will lose their values if they brought in investors because the venture capital industry is very white. A study done by Social + Capital, 78 percent of senior investment team members at the top venture capital firms were white while only one percent were black.
“People want the Black & Abroad that they met in April of 2015,” said Martin, “They don’t want some whitewashed version of it.”
Johnson, though frustrated with the slow-moving process of not seeking outside investors, still is attentive to those who say it is a bad idea. Evita Robinson, the founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, said “All money ain’t good money…. If you give [equity] to the wrong institutions, the wrong investor, they are gonna make you start doing inauthentic things to reach certain benchmarks.”
The plan for Black & Abroad is to crowdfund as much as they can for specific projects, short-term loans from Paypal, and an eye for the investment firm Blavity. The black-owned company’s acquisition of Travel Noire showed a positive example of owners releasing a small amount of control.