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While much of Silicon Valley is busy signing "Decency Pledges" and wondering how it can curb sexual discrimination, one woman is taking action. Sarah Kunst, an entrepreneur and investor who recently made headlines for publicly sharing her story of being harassed by 500 Startups' Dave McClure, has joined the board of a fund affiliated with her alma mater, Michigan State University.

Who? Kunst is currently the founder and CEO of fitness startup ProDay, and has spent time at VC firms Mohr Davidow Ventures and Fortis Partners.

Why it matters: It's becoming increasingly clear that institutional investors in VC funds—known as limited partners—can play a huge role in whether firms prioritize diversity and ethical behavior. "Universities, in particular, have an obligation to be on the right side of history," Kunst tells Axios.

The job: As one of 19 members of the board, Kunst plans to introduce the Michigan State University Foundation to venture capital funds in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Los Angeles — areas where she has deep networks. She wants to help steer the organization's investments into funds that will both yield returns and prioritize diversity and ethical behavior.

Due diligence: As some of the recent scandals have shown, a lot of misconduct remains hidden, even when limited partners ask around. This is one area Kunst believes she can help with. "As a woman, I think you hear a lot of information that a lot of guys don't hear," she told Axios. "Funds can drive outsized returns as well as outsized headaches," she added in reference of recent scandals that have put some limited partners in difficult positions, including having to consider shutting down some funds.

More opportunities:

Kunst's existing relationships in the venture capital means she'll be able to introduce the Foundation to firms beyond the top few outsiders usually know. Another important approach, according to Kunst, is helping VC funds identify their potential blind spots when it comes to startup investments they may be dismissing. Startups whose products are geared toward female consumers often face male investors who struggle to personally connect with the business, for example, adding to their fundraising challenges.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
12 mins ago - Economy & Business

Protecting America against catastrophe

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America has been hit by a series of catastrophic failures — and the only certainty is that more are on the way.

Why it matters: Our infrastructure is failing, and the less we invest in it now, the more it's going to continue to fail in the future.

Cities are starting to ban gas stations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Petaluma, California, has voted to outlaw new gas stations, the first of what climate activists hope will be numerous cities and counties to do so.

Why it matters: Expect more such ordinances, particularly in liberal towns. Grassroots groups are popping up with the mission of spreading this type of ban and forcing pollution cleanups at existing gas stations.

Column / Harder Line

New England power fight foreshadows divisive clean energy future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It wasn’t his first choice, but Sean Mahoney isn’t fighting a 150-mile proposed power line sending Canadian hydropower to New England as part of the region’s climate-change goals.

Why he matters: Mahoney, a senior expert at the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation who lives in Maine, is seeking to compromise in a bitter battle over the proposal. Expect more fights like this as President Biden and other political leaders pursue zero-carbon economies over the next 30 years.