Impact Investing | June 18, 2024

With managers like Marcy Ventures, Kellogg Foundation points its $8 billion toward mission 

David Bank
ImpactAlpha Editor

David Bank

The gut-instinct, hit-seeking culture of the music industry met the strategy-driven, measurement-focused ways of philanthropic foundations several years ago when the W.K.Kellogg Foundation’s $5 million investment in Marcy Venture Partners.

The contrasts were on display in a joint video interview with Marcy’s Jay Brown and Kellogg’s president, La June Montgomery Tabron at last month’s Mission Investors Exchange national conference in Los Angeles. 

Brown and Shawn Carter, better known as hip-hop icon Jay-Z, earlier co-founded the record label and talent agency Roc Nation. In 2018, they started Marcy Venture with a third partner, Larry Marcus. Kellogg Foundation invested in Marcy Venture $325 million second fund in 2022. 

After our interview, Bloomberg reported on talks between Marcy Venture and the investment arm of Pendulum Holdings, which was founded by D’Rita and Robbie Robinson, a financial advisor to Barack and Michelle Obama, to create a combined $1 billion-plus investment manager. 

“Everything that we’ve done, starting at Roc Nation, is social impact,” said Brown. “That’s what we stand for.”

I asked Brown how Marcy, which backs purpose-driven brands like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie, knows whether it’s having an impact. The world measures Marcy’s impact based on its response, he said. 

“My measurement is, I’m trying to do the right thing, and I hope everybody else is, too,” Brown added. “I don’t want to measure me and measure other people. I think it’s the wrong way to do it.”

In contrast, Tabron said programmatic alignment and impact measurement is key to the $340 million in mission-driven investments that Kellogg has made since 2007. ’s $340 million mission-driven investment portfolio, The investment in Marcy Venture was intended to drive not only job growth and culture shifts, but also expanded representation of people of color in venture capital fund management.  

“We are continuing to track and understand the impact, because I think that’s what others need in order to join us,” Tabron said. 

Kellogg foundation says Marcy Venture has provided pathways for investing in cultural and consumer trends in a way that safeguards the interests of communities of color.  

“There is that social impact that we see even in the narrative space. We know that authentic stories and people who can relate culturally to people of different cultures and ethnicities will eventually lead to what we believe is racial healing and racial equity,” Tabron said. “Everything we invest in has that social return.” 

Mission alignment

Brown cited Marcy Venture’s job- and wealth-creation, as well as training programs for young investment professionals. The brands it backs, including Merit Beauty, Our Place and Babylist. The portfolio in the firm’s first fund is comprised of 60% companies led by women and entrepreneurs of color. The firm has a track record of investing in successful culture and media companies that reach communities of color. 

“We don’t buy culture. We create culture. That’s what we are as people,” he said. “People want to be a part of something that’s unique and something that’s different.”

As for Kellogg, approximately 60% of the mission-driven portfolio, now valued at $160 million in mission-related and program-related investments, is managed by women managers and/or managers of color, Tabron said. That compares to less than 2% of assets for the industry as a whole. The foundation’s latest impact report says the mission portfolio generated an internal rate of return of 11% between 2017-2021.

“Let’s begin to rebuild this sector in a way where we can dismantle some of the barriers to access. That’s part of the narrative,” Tabron said. “As we show the great returns and the great industry that we are creating, others will join in. People have been leaving this money on the table.”

Kellogg’s mission investments have so far been a carveout from the foundation’s $8 billion trust and endowment.

“It would be our vision that our entire portfolio, not just the mission investment space, but our entire portfolio, should be mission investing,” Tabron said. “We must be aligned, because we are here to improve the lives of children and families, and every dollar we have should be doing that, should be contributing.”

Kellogg’s board of trustees is on board with the effort to shift the foundation’s assets toward mission, she said. 

“When you have a governance structure that is aligned with your mission, it isn’t a fight,” she said. “Our board is pushing us: ‘What more can you do?’”