By Anik Bose
VC firms were among the many types of businesses to pledge their devotion to improving diversity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. But what has changed?
Many would argue, “not much.”
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The financial case for diversity within a VC fund is clear. At BGV, our strategy as diverse immigrants to bet on fellow immigrants has proven itself in deals, IPOs and returns, earning our 2018 fund a top quartile performance spot. But a lot of firms are still struggling to improve.
Below are three ways investors and firms can improve diversity in VC.
Understand that there is no formula to diversity
The first thing to understand is that there is no formula or one-size-fits-all solution to diversity. Depending on your firm, your position and your goals, the solution to improving diversity can and will look different.
Instead, what you should do is take active action to expand your diversity talent pool.
If you’re a general partner, that could look like building in specific diversity objectives at the firm level for succession planning or at the portfolio level by enhancing the diversity of the firm’s entrepreneur network. If you’re on the HR side of operations, you could be looking at minority-serving educational institutions for your next intern or new hire.
What matters here is that you intentionally prioritize diversity and diverse perspectives into your daily work. Do this and inevitably an increase in your business’ diversity will follow.
Establish an international intern MBA program
BGV has an active intern program and has had more than 25 interns from institutions like Kellogg Graduate School of Management (U.S.), Technion Institute of Technology (Israel), and ESSEC (France). In the past five years, that intern pool resulted in three diverse investment hires.
When building out your firm’s internship program, ensure you’re connecting with schools serving talented student communities that are diverse across gender, ethnicity and experiences. Reach out beyond your country of origin and connect with leading programs in other countries—and not just other Western European countries.
There is talent to be found everywhere; you just need to break out of your comfort zone to find it.
Hire underrepresented talent into investment positions
At BGV, diverse investor perspectives have positively impacted business decisions, oftentimes helping us identify opportunities we might have otherwise missed. For example, diverse perspectives helped us identify an investment opportunity with a relatively obscure, Israel-based customer success startup.
That company was Totango and it’s now known as one of the fastest-growing startups in the customer success market with more than 5,000 customers. The company closed a $100 million growth financing round earlier this year.
Another example: One of our partners, a Russian immigrant, spotted the potential and value creation opportunity of a Russia-based engineering IT services company. That company, Grid Dynamics, went public in March 2020 and is now trading at a 200 percent markup to its IPO price.
Frankly, diverse perspectives–including ethnic and gender diversity–help broaden the lens brought to the decision-making table, improving business investments and preventing tone-deaf decisions.
Diversity, both internally and in investment, is something every VC firm should strive toward. For us at BGV, the value of diversity has been proven over and over again. While we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, we know there is still room to improve—for us and for the industry in general.
But the work must come from within the firms themselves. By incorporating the three tips above, VC firms are that much closer to improving their own diversity while simultaneously bettering our industry as a whole.
Anik Bose is general partner at Benhamou Global Ventures and is responsible for ESG at the firm. He also is the founder of EAIGG, a diverse community of AI practitioners focused on democratizing the growth of best practices around AI governance, data privacy and AI climate tech.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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