Anti-Bias Fund: The Challenges and Opportunities in Diverse Investing
March 22, 2021 | Ashley Brindamour
As part of our webinar series for the Anti-Bias Fund, we recently invited a panel of diverse AVG investment team members to discuss challenges and opportunities for diverse investors and founders. The Anti-Bias Fund is a focused fund that will make ~20-30 investments that are diversified by sector, stage, and geography. Each of these ventures will be led by a diverse founder or a team or have a business model that addresses systemic biases.
Moderator Wayne Moore, Managing Partner at Basecamp fund, sat down with three fellow AVG investment team members.
Wayne: First, I want to set the stage with some background on our topic. Historically, venture has been a white, male-dominated industry — from the investors making decisions to the entrepreneurs that received funding.
- About 45% of the venture workforce is women, but when you look at an investment professional, it drops to 20% and then down to 14% for partners. In terms of ethnic and racial diversity, nearly 80% of partners are white, 15% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 3% are black, and 3% are Hispanic or Latino.
- So why does this matter? We all have our own biases, and we tend to like companies that fit our pattern recognition, and we back founders with similar backgrounds and worldviews.
- That’s what we see when we examine the gender, racial, and ethnic makeup of VC-backed founders: 77% of founders are white, about 17% are Asian, less than 2% are Latino, and Black founders hover around 1%. When you look at gender, over 80% of teams are all male and less than 6% are female.
- So suffice it to say that there is an opportunity to invest in great founders.
Marco Casas, Basecamp Senior Principal|Lacey Johnson, The Yard Ventures Investing Partner|Catherine Lu, Basecamp Managing Partner
Wayne: Catherine, I’d love to hear about your journey as a female entrepreneur who has raised venture capital.
Catherine: My interests academically have always been in STEM subjects, so I was always used to being one of few women or sometimes the only woman in a group. For the company I co-founded with three classmates, all of those co-founders were male. Even when we went to Palantir, during the onboarding, I think there were 12 or 15 people, and I was the only woman.
What was interesting is that a lot of those experiences didn’t bother me. But during the fundraising, company building, and talking to investors, there were some pretty negative experiences where my male co-founders were treated quite differently than I was. So now when I talk to female founders, I know at least part of what they’ve gone through in building the company and fundraising.
Fund Closing March 31
The Anti-Bias Fund offers investors a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by diverse founders/teams or feature a business model addressing systemic biases. Click below to review fund materials, along with case studies on Alumni Ventures portfolio companies that demonstrate the kind of investments we might add to the Anti-Bias Fund. You can also book a call with a Senior Partner if you have questions or want to learn more.
Wayne: Marco, given that you are a first-generation immigrant, how has that shaped your discussions with entrepreneurs and informed your investment approach?
Marco: I have empathy when I look at a founder who has never had the opportunity to build a company before. I try to look for other aspects [beyond track record] that could inform my decision such as their grit, ability to be coached, and other traits. I think it’s is important to evaluate distance traveled and lived experiences they’ve had, as well as their communities or ethnicities and insights into a market potential that I may not know about.
Wayne: Lacey, can you highlight different ways that you’re accessing deal flow from a diverse founder set?
Lacey: One of the coolest groups I’ve noticed over the last few years has been All Raise. It was established with the simple mandate of getting more female checkwriters in place. Even in the pandemic, they have a lot of great events and ways to connect one-on-one with other venture capitalists and founders. They’ve been able to create great energy and connections, and folks are looking forward to helping each other out. So that was one that I’ve enjoyed being a part of, but also really impressed to see the impact that they have made in a short period of time.
Marco: I recently became a member of a community for Latin X VCs and emerging founders called VC Familia. The founder was a VC fellow on the Yard Venture’s team, Cheryl Campos, and I just think she’s a rock star. She invited me in, and I was very encouraged to see people sharing both personal and day-to-day stores. I’ve been enjoying those conversations a lot. People also share deal flow — there are people from all sorts of funds, including international — so I’ve been able to explore that angle too.
Catherine: I want to second All Raise from Lacey. I’m also part of a couple of Slack and Facebook groups of female founders who are very welcoming to female investors, and I have been able to connect with founders there. There are a lot of founders that actively seek out more women or diverse investors to talk with because they want to get them on their cap table or have those shared experiences.
Wayne: In what ways is investing in diverse talent pools a successful strategy?
Lacey: If you don’t have a diverse team or a commitment to diversity, it’s really hard to attract talent. If you have a diverse networking source that enables you to bring in talent that no one else can access, that’s a competitive advantage. So if you’re thinking about investing in these companies, wouldn’t you rather invest in one that embraces diversity and the ability to bring together interesting minds? This is not really about making an impact investment. I’m making an investment because I think that this is the future. This is how it’s going to have to be, and the diverse companies have a competitive edge.
Wayne: Finally, what do you think AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund is contributing to the diversity conversation in venture?
Marco: There’s been a lot of rhetoric in the venture industry, but not as much action to really back it up. So I think the Anti-Bias Fund is AVG stepping up and saying there is more capital needed in this area. And we act nimbly to do just that.
Learn More About Our Anti-Bias Fund
We’re pleased to report some positive results in fighting bias. But given the overall rate of funding and venture employment for women and people of color, much more needs to be done. We hope the Anti-Bias Fund is one more such “good news” story and invite you to explore more about the fund. If you have questions, click below to connect with us.
Interested in learning more? Click below to review fund materials.