Since graduating from Pitt in 1980, David Motley has amassed quite a career as a venture capitalist, real estate developer and corporate executive. Along the way, he’s lived in nearly a dozen cities; and — with his level of success — he could now live wherever he wishes.
But he’s settled in his hometown, Pittsburgh, in part because of lessons learned more than 40 years ago from a professor who took the incoming student under his tutelage.
Karl Lewis was one of Pitt’s first Black engineering professors. When he and Motley first met during a summer prep course, Motley says he was “a raw lump of clay.” Lewis’ molding of Motley included tough love, recalls Motley, saying the professor “taught me that I wasn’t ready. I needed to get ready.”
Get ready he did — with Lewis’ mentorship in problem-solving and work ethic, Motley graduated cum laude from the Swanson School of Engineering, where he says, “I found confidence and competence.”
But, so many years later, he could be confident and competent anywhere. Why Pittsburgh?
The answer, says Motley, lies in another lesson learned from Lewis and from his upbringing: knowledge gained should be shared with the community.
He says he’s connected to Pittsburgh and the broader African American community and he’s sharing his knowledge with both. He’s co-founded Black Tech Nation Ventures (btn.vc), a $50 million Pittsburgh-based venture capital fund that invests in African American technology startups in Pittsburgh and nationally. The fund has backed nine startups that have Black and diverse founders. Two of those companies, BrightUp and Hive Wealth, are devoted to closing racial wealth gaps.
“A big part of what we do,” says Motley, “is make sure the people in whom we invest have the motivation and aptitude to make good things happen, and then we create opportunities for them to realize their potential.”
Karl Lewis would be proud.
This story was published Aug. 29, 2023. It is part of Pitt Magazine's fall 2023 edition.