Jan 15, 2021 - Economy

Creating a path for Black venture capitalists

Illustration of a hand carrying stacks of money

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Venture capital last summer began finally reckoning with its lack of Black investors, as part of the country's broader conversation on racial inequities.

The big picture: The relative handful of existing Black venture capitalists were deluged with recruiting calls from brand-name firms, both to poach and to solicit introductions. But many felt there was a pipeline problem.

  • Not a lack of qualified Black candidates, but too few Black professionals in traditional feeder industries (tech, banking, etc.) who viewed VC as a viable career path, or who had venture capitalists in their personal networks.

A group called BLCK VC, in partnership with Anthemis and Lerer Hippeau, responded by creating what it called the NYC Path Program, described as an "on-road for Black professionals to discover jobs in venture capital."

  • More than 300 applications came in, with 21 selected for the debut cohort.
  • The eight-week program launched last October. On Thursday nights, a VC firm partner like Rebecca Kaden of USV or Nikhil Sachdev of Insight Partners would gave an overview of a different topic, such as early-stage due diligence vs. later-stage due diligence or post-investment responsibilities. Then, on Fridays, participants split into smaller groups with their mentor, typically a VC firm principal or senior associate.
  • Jillian Williams, a principal with Anthemis, says that many participants were surprised by how early-stage investing is much more qualitative than quantitative.
  • The program then created a "look book" to show firms that came calling for candidates, as the majority of participants came away with interest in the industry (some, of course, decided it wasn't for them).

What next: BLCK VC is in the process of determining how the program will evolve.

  • Expectations are to host the program twice per year in New York, once in the spring and once in the fall, with broader geographic roll-0ut still being discussed.
  • Cohorts will be kept small so that individuals can more effectively engage with VCs and each other. She adds that

The bottom line: The first step toward rectifying a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. Much of venture capital seems to have done so. The second step is launching and encouraging efforts like the Path Program, so that the industry doesn't backslide, once the socio-political spotlight dims.

Go deeper