Insights on AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund from Our Investing Team
February 11, 2021 | Ashley Brindamour
The thesis of AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund is there’s an opportunity to both do good and do well in venture investing by backing diverse founders/teams and businesses addressing systemic bias. We interviewed some of AVG’s investing team members to speak to their experience as VCs who come from underrepresented groups and who are backing diverse founders and businesses.
New Anti-Bias Fund Open
The Anti-Bias Fund offers investors a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by diverse founders/teams belonging or featuring a business model addressing systemic biases. Click below to review fund materials, along with case studies on AVG portfolio companies that demonstrate the kind of investment 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.
Catherine Liu, Managing Partner at AVG’s Basecamp Fund (for pre-seed and seed investments)
Prior to Basecamp, Catherine was Senior Principal at Spike Ventures (for the Stanford community). She was previously Director of Product at machine learning startup DataVisor (backed by NEA and Sequoia).
As a venture investor who doesn’t fit the profile of the typical white, male VC, what’s been your experience in the industry?
Catherine Lu: While equity is increasing in many areas, when it comes to fundraising, diverse founding teams are still getting disproportionately less of the capital. Because of my life experiences, I am more aware of these inherent biases, and I believe that is also why my investments have a much higher representation of underrepresented founders.
As a female who has been interested in STEM subjects from a young age, being in the minority has never been new. There are too many cases to count where I was the only female in a room or one of very few, starting from middle school.
From these experiences, I know what it’s like to need to be better than others to be seen as an equal. I also know how much harsher the judgment can be. So, in my role as a venture investor, I am able to find great investment opportunities that might be overlooked by others due to inherent biases — to the benefit of the founders, our investors, and Alumni Ventures Group.
Lacey Johnson, Investing Partner at The Yard Ventures (for Harvard alumni and community)
Lacey joined AVG from CareGroup Investment Office, a $3B manager of combined endowment and pension assets. She previously worked at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and the Securities Division of Goldman Sachs. Prior to her current role with The Yard Ventures, Lacey was a partner on Green D Ventures fund team, Alumni Ventures fund for Dartmouth alumni and friends of the community.
Tell me about an investment that you made in a diverse founding team or business addressing systemic bias.
Lacey Johnson: Kindbody is reinventing the delivery of women’s healthcare — a historically underinvested area — from the female perspective. Kindbody’s founder, Gina Bartasi, is a serial entrepreneur in the fertility space. With Kindbody, she set out to make fertility services more accessible to a broader population.
Alumni Ventures invested in Kindbody’s Series A in February 2018. At the time, the company was still in the early stages of its development. But the team and the early, inbound customer interest got us excited about the overall vision. In addition to being enthusiastic about backing a female-led business in a growing, under-resourced market, we were thrilled to join a primarily all-female investor syndicate.
Who are some co-investors or organizations in the venture industry that you’d like to give a shout-out to for leading the way in diversity/impact investing?
Lacey: The emergence of All Raise, an organization dedicated to accelerating the success of female founders and funders, has been a bright light. I have been incredibly impressed with the group’s energy and follow-through. It has done a lot to not only develop programming to better connect female investors and founders, but also to elevate the broader industry conversation about the superior business outcomes generated by diverse teams.
Join our many upcoming Anti-Bias Fund webinars for opportunities to learn more on how to do good and do well by backing diverse founders/teams.
- The Challenges and Opportunities in Diverse Investing
- Meet the Portfolio: Conversation with Three Companies Backed by the Anti-Bias Fund
Watch our most recent Anti-Bias Fund webinars.
- A Conversation with Melissa Hanna: Startup Journey of an Activist-Entrepreneur
- Introduction to the AVG Anti-Bias Fund
Wesley was previously a product manager at BlackRock Solutions. He later transitioned to a traditional investing role where he worked as an investment strategist for the fixed income division of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
What are companies you’ve invested in led by diverse teams and/or addressing systemic biases?
Wesley Yiu: We invested in CodeSignal in late 2020. Not only was this company extremely compelling based on its own merits, but it also is directly addressing systemic bias within hiring. In fact, it’s one of the investments that’s been added to the Anti-Bias Fund.
The CEO and CTO are both immigrants from Armenia and skilled software developers. The CEO came to the U.S. and studied at MIT, while the CTO attended a local university in Armenia. The CEO went on to work at Google, but the CTO had a difficult time finding a job in software engineering. Because he lacked a name-brand university on his resume, he was passed on time and again by major companies — even though he was a superior developer.
This ultimately led to the founding of CodeSignal, which address the systemic bias in hiring technical talent. Their coding assessment platform helps technical teams make smarter hiring decisions by looking past a candidate’s resume and only evaluating coding ability. There are tons of great coders out there that don’t sport a name-brand university or tech company on their resume.
Large enterprises are starting to realize this and thus trust CodeSignal for their technical hiring needs. The team has demonstrated significant growth and momentum on very little venture funding to date.
AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund offers a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by a diverse founding team or feature a business model addressing systemic biases. ~20% of the fund is reserved for follow-on investments. Minimum starts at $25K. Click below to learn more.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. To see additional risk factors and investment considerations, visit avg-funds.com/Disclosures.