Earlier this year, we created a medium post that shared a note we sent our portfolio CEOs with strong words of support for the Black community and our intent to fight for racial equality. Since then, we have undertaken several initiatives to put these words into action and attempt to make a real and measurable difference. So what have we been doing?
Making our voices heard
- Signed the NVCA & Venture Forward #VCHumanCapital Pledge
- Joined the FinTech Equality Coalition
- Discussed our beliefs and intentions with our portfolio company leadership as well as our limited partners (investors in our funds)
Donated to a worthy cause
- Discussed various organizations that make a difference in helping to improve racial equality
- Chose to donate to the organization Black Girls Code, because of their mission to help improve racial and gender access to important career skills and opportunities
Helping to create career access in Venture Capital to minority and underrepresented individuals
- Spoke with several industry leaders who are experts on the issue of diversity in venture capital, and who are working to help improve diversity in the field every day by helping to expand access to Black and Latinx professionals
- Created the CV Access Fellowship:
- Modeled as a semester-long paid, temporary role for a college junior or senior
- Developed a curriculum centered on 1) Education (teaching core VC and startup industry concepts, as well as guiding through the process of building a theme), 2) Experience (including our fellow(s) in group meetings with entrepreneurs, portfolio companies, LPs and internal team meetings), and 3) Exposure (setting up one-on-one meetings/mentor sessions with industry leading entrepreneurs, executives, VCs and LPs to help build a valuable network).
- Launched first call for applications (received 44), screened and interviewed candidates, and announced our first fellow, Landen Buckson
Helping to improve deal flow with diverse founders and executives
- Spoke with many like minded venture firms, to make sure they know we are interested in seeing more investment opportunities in companies with racially diverse founders
- Spoke with limited partners to share this intention both to help with deal flow and call attention to our plans
- Spoke with our portfolio CEOs and members of our corporate network to share this intention
- Created a diverse deal flow processing system, guaranteeing all industry-relevant opportunities with diverse founders would receive attention from us. These entrepreneurs need only email us at TimeForChange@commerce.vc to receive an express pathway to setting meetings with someone from our investment team.
- Even if we are not a match for investment, we often try to help with introductions to other investors or customer prospects.
Investing in diverse founders
- Since taking these steps just a few months ago, we have met with and evaluated 45 investment opportunities in companies with at least one minority (25) or female (33) founder.
- Of these opportunities, we have completed investments in three and committed to invest in two others.
We know we are only a small part of the work that needs to be done as an industry to make real, impactful and lasting change on racial equality. However, we are committed to being the change we want to see in the world, and we hope our friends and colleagues will join us on this journey to build a better industry and world.
If you think we can be doing more or should consider other tactics to help, we remain open to all ideas and suggestions (although we recognize that our resources are not unlimited). Please feel free to email us at TimeForChange@commerce.vc with any ideas or suggestions.
With wishes for a better tomorrow,
The Commerce Ventures Team