Included VC: Fellowship for more diversity in VC on making change

  • Despite attempts at improvement, venture capital remains an overtly white and male profession even as evidence suggests that diversity can boost the performance of funds and helps find new opportunities. 
  • Research indicates that IPO success rates decline by 26.4% when investment partners have the same ethnicity. Women also have an outsized impact on investment success. 
  • London-based Included VC is a fellowship programme aimed at improving access and representation in venture capital and is backed by a number of top VC funds. 
  • “The belief we have is that entrepreneurs come from everywhere and they are outliers so looking in the same place for them isn’t going to work,” Nikita Thakrar, cofounder and director at Included VC, told Business Insider in an interview. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the wake of widespread Black Lives Matter protests, larger businesses in the US and Europe have accepted that lacking diversity in their operations is a pressing issue. With that has come an acceptance that existing power structures often preclude minorities from accessing certain industries.

Venture capital, often kingmakers for the technology services we rely on daily, is badly impacted by a lack of diversity.

“The gender and racial makeup of the venture capital industry is staggeringly homogeneous,” according to a Harvard Business Review paper written by Paul Gompers and Silpa Kovvali in 2018. 

The industry is predominantly white and male and despite attempts to change that only 8% of VC investors in the US are women per the 2018 paper. 

In the UK, it’s estimated that only 1p in every £1 invested in the country goes to female-led companies. Women made up 30% of venture capital personnel in 2019, per Diversity VC. Similarly, only 24% of venture investors in the UK identify as an ethnic minority. 

Included VC, a London-based fellowship programme for prospective investors, startup founders, and other sector participants, is seeking to provide a solution.

The group is backed by a variety of venture capital funds in London and elsewhere and is now onto its second fellowship. The programme lasts for 12 months and is fully funded for all 40 fellows.

“The VC landscape is broader reflection of wider societal problems,” Nikita Thakrar, cofounder and director at Included VC, told Business Insider in an interview. “It’s not about diversity to virtue signal, you will maximize your fund returns due to the diversity dividend.”

Research indicates that IPO success rates decline by 26.4% when investment partners come from the same ethnic background. Alongside this, venture capital firms that increased their proportion of female partner hires by 10% saw, on average, a 1.5% spike in overall fund returns each year and had 9.7% more profitable exits, per Harvard Business Review. 

Funds including Notion Capital (which helped originate the programme), Seedcamp, Creandum, Daphni, and more recently Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, are partners to the fellowship. 

For Otitooluwa Dosumu, a fellow from Nigeria now living in Lisbon as part of a PhD programme, being the only black person in the room was nothing new. He believes that greater knowledge about the options available to potential investors can help change things. 

Otitooluwa Dosumu

Otitooluwa Dosumu

Included VC


“There are not many African founders that get VC funding because many [founders] don’t know VC exists or how to get that information,” he told Business Insider. “Understanding where you can get money for your innovation, how to construct a pitch deck, how to pitch, how to position in the market, are all key skills.” 

Dosumu now gives some of his time to help the African diaspora in Lisbon while also helping to bridge the gap between his community in Nigeria and better access to capital through an NGO. 

Improving access is also a major focus for Sorcha Killian, a fellow from Ireland who has previously worked with startups as part of her course at Dublin City University and through working for Dublin-based conference company Web Summit. 

“It’s so ingrained in people what venture is, venture is not just software and I want to try and change that,” she told Business Insider in an interview. “Just because it’s not an app doesn’t mean it’s not a venture company.”

Considering diversity of thought can also help to amplify exposure to markets which may not have previously received much VC attention. “The belief we have is that entrepreneurs come from everywhere and they are outliers so looking in the same place for them isn’t going to work,” Thakrar added. 

Included VC acknowledges that there is no overnight fix to these issues but that over a five- to seven-year horizon a real reimagination of the industry can take place.

Thakrar said new funds are increasingly interested in partnering with the programme and that more investors are seeing the value of having wider pools of talent from which to choose. 

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