Fast forward more than 56 years since the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington and emotions today range from sadness to outrage at what we have not accomplished in over a generation, and now amplified to crisis proportions by the police killing of George Floyd.
So, what can a 15-person venture capital firm do better? (Answer: it is a lot).
We can certainly support the much broader non-VC work that has to be done, but we also need to improve and focus on areas that we can control. We have spent hours reading and discussing the many incredible thoughts and views that have been published recently as well as accessed resources that have been around for years, but, sadly, underused. This will be an ongoing effort.
We believe in action over words, although we should have been verbalizing our support of anti-racism and diversity and inclusion initiatives and encouraging our peers to do the same.
Here is what we can and will do initially. We will not be perfect and may stumble from time to time, but we must begin and make this a permanent, not one-time, commitment.
FIND AND INVEST IN UNDERREPRESENTED FOUNDERS: We know pipelines exist to access talented black and underrepresented founders, and we aim to do better to work with these groups and organizations. We commit to widening our networks and relationships to ensure we connect with more of these communities to invest in. We also plan to seek out accelerators that work with black and underrepresented founders and partner with funds and advisors that can provide introductions to diverse entrepreneurs.
IMPROVE DIVERSITY IN THE TECH COMMUNITY: We need to help our portfolio companies recruit talented black and underrepresented engineers and operators. Many studies have shown that building diverse teams benefits both the company and the employees. Many of the best founders we meet come from tech companies, where they have honed their skills, learned from their peers, built a network, and developed their own ideas and vision. Making sure more black and underrepresented talent has the opportunity to do the same can lead to a more diversified group of founders in the long-term.
EDUCATION – WE NEED TO HELP BUILD THE PIPELINE: We want to support entrepreneurship programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and become teachers and mentors. We will research opportunities and develop a program.
OUR PORTFOLIO COMPANIES: while we tend to hold small positions in our portfolio, we can help them better understand “best practices” for diversity and inclusion and work with them as they scale.
OUTSIDE THE VENTURE COMMUNITY: We are encouraged by and support actions taken by major and important institutions that must be catalysts for change. We will continue to provide opportunities for our team to participate in community and related events that can advance the progress that is so important.
We stand in solidarity with the black community and look forward to doing better and making meaningful progress. We urge you to make your voices heard.
Please contact Allie Klun if you want to help and/or have ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.