Siebert Williams Shank in Partnership with Microsoft to Provide $250 for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

Siebert Williams Shank (SWS) has partnered with Microsoft to launch the Clear Vision Impact Fund L.L.C., with a target size of $250 million, and an initial $25 million investment from Microsoft. The Fund will help provide growth and operating capital to diversely owned small and medium-sized businesses that support and uplift distressed and underserved communities and strengthen their economy. The fund will also maximize social impact.

The fund will not also just be given randomly but will target companies that demonstrate an operating track record of successful operations, overlooking the fact that it might be less successful at the moment because of the current coronavirus pandemic, which has affected a lot of businesses. It will also look out for businesses with sustainable business models.

Chris Williams, Chairman of SWS said, “We’re identifying businesses that, with our involvement, we can make more profitable or enable them to return to profitability… If a company is failing, that is not going to be the type of opportunity that will provide an appropriate return relative to the associated risk.”

Reports from SWS reveal that this would be the first time such a fund is introduced and made available to minority-owned firms which include black businesses. The focus would be on small and medium-sized businesses, paying more attention to those that are owned by a minority group and women as well, whose enterprise value is less than $100 million.

One objective for this partnership between SWS and Microsoft is to mitigate the deficits in capital access that minority-owned businesses often encounter, and by this, enhance the positive impacts that these companies have on the communities in which they operate.

In a news release, Williams said “We are extremely pleased to have Microsoft’s critical support in delivering the commercial and social resources necessary to strengthen underperforming communities… Our role in helping to implement Microsoft’s vision of community support is a recognition of the vital role that small businesses play in their communities, particularly during this period of widespread economic distress.”

The president and CEO of SWS, Suzanne Shank, also added “This is the beginning of a long-term commitment by Microsoft and by our firm to continue to address the decades of underinvestment in communities of color and the persistently limited access to capital for entrepreneurs in those communities. We are thrilled that Microsoft has recognized the value of this endeavor and we are confident others will follow.”

Microsoft CIO and assistant treasurer, Tahreem Kampton said “We’re pleased to continue our 10-year relationship with Siebert Williams Shank to partner together to create new opportunities and expand access to capital for minority-owned small businesses… There is much work to do to reduce the technology gaps that exist in our ecosystem today. This is just the first step to building a more diverse and equitable playing field and we look forward to the opportunities that this investment will help create.”

Beyond providing capital solutions to financial sponsors and entrepreneurs as well, more value is said to be gotten as SWS would be looking to leverage on its network of relationship, its visibility, and reputation within the minority business community.

Williams also said, “I don’t want to imply that this fund is the sole answer… but we have to start somewhere and this is one tool that many well-intentioned companies are using.”

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