Courtesy of Cheick Camara

After starting up last year, BlackGen Capital is preparing to make its first investments.

October 15, 2020

Student-Owned Investment Fund BlackGen Capital Prepares to Make First Investments

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BlackGen Capital, Cornell’s first underrepresented minority owned investment fund, is now preparing to make its first investments after two semesters of recruiting, training and hosting corporate events.

The completely student-managed fund is working to raise $30,000 with the help of Cornell alumni, individual supporters and corporate sponsors — influential banks such as Bank of America, HSBC, JP Morgan and Bloomberg. The money will form BlackGen’s basis for investment, which will be allocated based on stock pitches that members make.

“All these firms really want to partner with us because they want to have access to our talent and an increase in diversity amongst their pool of candidates,” said co-founder and co-president Cheick Camara ’22.

Along with co-president Ermias Tadesse ’22, Camara formed BlackGen’s 10-person executive board last fall with a mission to fill what they saw as a missing demand in Cornell’s finance world.

“Cheick and I were in a few of Cornell’s top finance clubs, and we noticed that there was very little representation of underrepresented minorities that were interested in finance in those organizations,” Tadesse said.

Combining their passions for investing and giving back, Camara and Tadesse sought to create an organization that empowers Black and Latinx students to enter a disproportionately white corporate world.

They tapped into their expertise to develop the organization. Camara, a Dyson student concentrating in finance, started trading stocks and educating others about them in high school. Tadesse, a Human Ecology student in policy analysis and management, focuses on business operations and leadership.

“We’re just helping students pay it forward, passing down the resources, the knowledge, and the key tips that students from our backgrounds have disproportionately less access to,” Camara said.

Camara and Tadesse sent a survey to around 1,500 students to gauge community interest in financial training, networking and other business skills. With an abundance of enthusiastic feedback and the promise of an organizational community, they decided to proceed.

BlackGen launched in the spring with 24 students. After this semester’s recruitment, which consisted of an extensive social and technical interview process, its cohort has grown to 64 members. New members participate in a 10-week training program focused on financial modeling, investing, accounting, stock pitch analysis and personal finance.

Although all activities have moved online, BlackGen members have many opportunities to get involved. They participate in events, where they engage with representatives of major corporate sponsors.

BlackGen members also pitch stock ideas for the fund to invest in. Within BlackGen’s equity portfolio, members can either short or long investment pitches.

Stock pitches focus on four core industries, healthcare, technology and telecommunication, energy and consumer. BlackGen plans not to invest more than 8 percent of its fund into a single venture.

Philanthropy forms a core tenet of BlackGen’s mission. Once investments pay off, BlackGen plans to support Black and Latinx communities and businesses. BlackGen recently ran a donation matching program that raised $1,000 for various Black Lives Matter initiatives.

BlackGen also hosts panels and workshops in conjunction with other Cornell clubs, including Underrepresented Minorities in Computing and the Cornell Hedge Fund.

“We’re working to collaborate with other Cornell organizations to build that sense of community on campus for students interested in personal finance or careers in business,” Tadesse said.

As BlackGen expands in assets and community, Tadesse said he has learned about leadership through his connections with alumni donors and Bank of America. “It’s taught me a lot about professionalism and managing relationships outside the organization in order to help it grow,” he said.

Currently seeking donations on its website, Camara and Tadesse hope that BlackGen will continue to grow in size and influence.

“Ermias and I know that the impact of BlackGen really transcends just us,” Camara said. “Our ultimate goal is to help power for the next generation of talented Black and Latinx students for the next 100 years, even.”