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Inspiring Conversations with Keith Daniel of Resilient Ventures

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keith Daniel.

Hi Keith, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I was born and raised in Washington, DC after graduating from Archbishop Carroll HS, I chose to attend Duke University. Going to Duke was a coming home of sorts since both my parents are natives of Durham, in fact, I’m a fourth or fifth-generation Durham native roots.

Upon graduation, I accepted my first of what would be five positions at Duke over the next 14 years and earned my M.Ed. in Higher Ed Admin. from NC State Univ. the same year my son was born.

After thinking I would one day be a dean of a college or university, I received and accepted a “call” to full-time ministry and matriculated to Duke Div. School. Today, I am an ordained clergy member in the American Baptist Church tradition having completed my master’s and doctor of ministry degrees. The majority of my professional career has been in higher ed, non-profit, ministry, and philanthropy. I remain committed to these sectors as a board director, advisor, and consultant.

After serving as the executive director of two non-profits, I launched Madison Consulting, LLC becoming self-employed in 2017. The opportunity to shift to venture came serendipitously in a conversation after a gathering at my church on the topic of race and reconciliation with my friend Tom Droege. There is much more to this part of the story but we co-founded and launched Resilient Ventures, LLC in 2018 with a focus on early-stage start-ups led by African American founders.

As I mentioned earlier, I held 5 different full-time positions at Duke, including an 8-year tenure at the Fuqua School of Business. I’m in the role of Managing Partner principally from my Fuqua experience and relationships and the trust I’ve earned from wealthy friends and colleagues.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
No, the road has not always been smooth, but for most of my life and career, I’ve been a part of amazing teams with world-class coaches, teachers, advisors, and mentors. I’ve literally learned how to get up after being knocked down having played little league football through making the starting lineup as a wide receiver at Duke. I failed my first calculus course at Duke.

I completed my second master’s degree while our children were 2 and 4 years old and my wife now 28 years was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She endured two difficult years of aggressive treatments and thankfully is a survivor today! I took an educational leave from a great paying and values-driven job in human resources to attend graduate school and did it again to complete my doctoral program.

I experienced a terrible season of episodic depression during my doctoral program and was forced to take a short leave of absence to recover. I experienced several growing edges and bouts of fear of leaving a long tenure at Duke and all the prestige and benefits of the institution. I was laid off from my second position as Executive Director of a statewide nonprofit due to funding drying up.

I’ve dealt directly with racialized micro and macro aggressions and I’ve had to learn how to move on quickly from failure and disappointment. Now, I’m early in a new career in the venture. It’s the most challenging work I’ve ever done and tremendously risky. I never would have considered myself a high-risk person, but being responsible for millions of mostly other people’s money is about the highest level of risk one can take.

Yet, the road is made a bit smoother by the direction and support of our advisors and operating partners and an amazing and dedicated co-founder.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Resilient Ventures, LLC is an early-stage, committed capital fund, supporting African American founders by expanding access to capital, networks, and opportunities. Since 2019, we’ve invested in 9 companies in NC, GA, MI, and IL. We closed our first fund at $3.45M and have deployed $1.505M to date.

We are fairly agnostic in our investment profile but strive to stay in our lanes that include tech/tech-enabled, SaaS, Ed Tech, Main Street, health and wellness, and FinTech. We entered the VC world from non-traditional fields with highly transferable skills. We’re inspired by the historical commitment to economic justice and closing the wealth gap, especially with regard to access to capital for high-growth companies led by African American founders.

We differentiate ourselves based on our knowledge and teaching of racial equity, business experience and acumen, personal capital, investments, faith, and expansive networks of experts who believe in us as managing partners based on our personal and professional history and backgrounds.

Tom is known and has made a substantial mark in the flourishing of the software industry in Raleigh Durham Triangle while successfully leading his software company Droege Computing for over 30 years. I have enjoyed an amazing career in higher education leadership, teaching, and management while leading non-profit organizations, churches, and communities in peace and justice work.

We are most proud of the diversity of our team and advisors and to be sought after for our faith, resilience, and commitment to beloved community that overcomes racism in all of its forms.

We want people to see our history of philanthropy, embrace and join our new path toward economic justice through ventures for substantial wealth-building for all, especially for those of us who have been undervalued, overlooked, or rarely see ourselves leading high growth companies because of the barriers and headwinds to entry.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Lessons from the pandemic are innumerable. First, it gave us the opportunity to experience and live out the name of our fund, Resilient. And, to support our portfolio companies in the same way. Fortunately, shifting to online was undaunting as that was the primary learning context of my doctoral of ministry program as a hybrid curriculum that included residency and online learning.

Further, and most importantly we adjusted our health habits according to the direction of public health experts and the world-class Duke Health System leadership we value here in Durham. We took action to obtain the Federal relief dollars to sustain our business interests and to continue delivering uninterrupted services to our clients and partners.

I learned further the importance of rest and contemplative mental and physical care in times of crisis and isolation. As I said the lessons are innumerable from the value of life that can go from beautiful to traffic overnight, the importance of community both online and in-person, the importance of being prepared for adversity, and to give ourselves and others the time to grieve and grow through difficult times.

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Image Credits

Headshot photographed by Fancy This Photography

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