Building a new firm in venture capital from scratch is not easy. Traditionally it has been the domain of former investment bankers and exited entrepreneurs. There are now some interesting entrants to the industry such as writers, podcasters, and very determined forces of nature, but they are exceptions, not the rule.

To start a venture capital firm from scratch, especially one that is different (with an impact investing lens, focused on leadership diversity, and founded on compassionate and integrated decision-making), it helps to get some support and learn from others so that we can do what we do best and have the positive impact we’re aiming for.

In the startup world, there are lots of incubators, accelerators, and support programs. For venture capital firms, there are few and those that exist are prohibitively expensive. After bootstrapping Pique Ventures for over 5 years and faced with the opportunity to grow and scale our impact with a second fund, Bonnie Foley-Wong, CEO of Pique Ventures, felt it was time to get support.

Learn more about Bonnie Foley-Wong’s campaign to harmonize venture capital

VC Unlocked is an investor training program at Stanford University, run in partnership with 500 Startups. Bonnie applied to VC Unlocked and one other program for venture capital managers and part of her consideration of both programs was the diversity of their participants and their impact-focus.

As noted on the post announcing admissions for VC Unlocked earlier in 2019:

  • 33% of program alumni are women and
  • 61% are international, hailing from 64 different countries.

According to Female Funders’ Women in Tech 2019 report, only 13.5% of venture capital partners at Canadian and US firms are women. That one-third of VC Unlocked’s alumni are women is not bad for female representation, in her opinion.

Since 2015, 400 aspiring investors had graduated from the program and of that only 8 are from Canada – only 2% (c’mon Canada!)

Bonnie asked Patrick Driscoll, head of Education Operations at 500 Startups what proportion of participants come from funds, firms or organizations that identify themselves as impact-oriented investors. “We always have impact-oriented attendees,” he shared with me. He estimates 15% of each cohort have had impact investing strategies.

She found it useful to ask these questions to get a sense of the characteristics of the program and the cohort. she was wondering whether there would be people attending from “her tribe”, whether she’d feel like she belonged, and whether she would have the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of perspectives. Patrick had quickly responded to her questions and she felt as though 500 Startups, despite its past challenges, was at the very least paying attention to diversity.

It’s important to do your due diligence – whether it’s on the founders and ventures in which you want to invest or the investors you’re considering inviting onto your cap table or the partners with whom you’re thinking about working or the programs in which you’re planning on making a big investment. When you ask questions, it’s not just the answers that matter. You should also pay attention to how forthcoming they are with their answers and how they answer. A great relationship starts with trust and transparency. It’s fair to exchange information and determine if you’re heading in the same direction towards a shared goal.

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Help Pique Ventures help more women and underrepresented entrepreneurs get funded. Please support our crowdfunding campaign to harmonize venture capital. We really appreciate your support.

About Pique Ventures

Pique Ventures is an impact investment and management company. Pique Ventures enables a diverse community of investors to pursue integrated investing. Integrated Investing is a proprietary investment decision-making methodology to help create a better world and was developed specifically to evaluate impact and early-stage ventures.

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