People

How do you make VC more diverse? Maybe start with the training schemes

Kauffman Fellows is diversifying its board and rethinking its business model in an attempt to make its investor classes more accessible.

Marlon Nichols of MaC Venture Capital

Marlon Nichols of MaC Venture Capital is one of the Kauffman Fellows new board members.

Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

On Tuesday, the Kauffman Fellows unveiled its most diverse class yet: Of 61 investor trainees, 41% are women and 49% are people of color. It also announced that its board is now the most diverse it's ever been, thanks to three new members.

The program is betting that the board's increased diversity will help maintain the growth in diversity of its fellowship cohort — a virtuous cycle in a program where its group of fellows helps nominate and evaluate future trainees.

Going forward, Kauffman Fellows CEO Jeff Harbach sees this approach as one way to develop a more inclusive venture capital industry.

"I'm not going to tell any particular firm what to do about their next hire or their partnership dynamics or whatever else, that's for them to figure out," Harbach told Protocol. "But gosh dang it, if you're not doing your part in making your firm and the venture ecosystem look more like society as a whole, then you're lagging behind. It's not good enough."

The Kauffman Fellows' approach of leading from the top is just one way the venture community is tackling racial inequality. Earlier on Tuesday, for instance, the National Venture Capital Association unveiled its new nonprofit, Venture Forward, to make opportunities in venture capital accessible to people of all backgrounds.

The announcements from the Kauffman Fellows and NVCA were months in the making and not just a reaction to the news of the past few weeks. But the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder have magnified the importance of the venture community tackling racial inequality that's pervasive in its ranks.

"I'm very hopeful that this is a moment of change," Harbach said. "I can't imagine having so much momentum over the last couple weeks with so many emotional stories being shared that this would just go away or fall on deaf ears, and it gives me that hope that I know that we're not alone in this. There are people that have been working on this intently and will continue to work on it."

The investor training program has been working to improve representation in its fellow classes for years and has graduated notable alumni like Kleiner's Mamoon Hamid, Bessemer's Elliott Robinson, Aspect Ventures' Jennifer Fonstad, Defy Ventures' Trae Vassallo and Andreessen Horowitz's Chris Lyons.

But the last year has been "phase one" of a process to have its board more broadly reflect society, Harbach said. That includes adding the three new board members: Kauffman alumni Marlon Nichols (MaC Venture Capital), Melissa Richlen (MacArthur Foundation) and Allen Taylor (Endeavour). Their additions bring the board to one-quarter Black and three out of eight women. Next, Harbach wants to add more international representation to the board.

The program has also been trying to find new ways to diversify its revenue sources so that it's not as reliant on tuition dollars — which are currently $80,000 for the two-year program. Del Johnson, a venture capitalist not affiliated with the Kauffman Fellows, recently criticized the program's price tag and questioned what it was doing to make it more accessible.

The goal of the business model rethink is to both lower the tuition amount in the future so it is more accessible and also to try to find more sponsorship for its scholarship program, Harbach said. In the last year, the Kauffman Fellows program doubled the amount of scholarship money it doles out after partnering with companies like Carta and the Business Development Bank of Canada, Harbach said. It also worked with Textio and the Kapor Center to evaluate its applications and interview materials.

"We know that new fund managers and oftentimes women and underrepresented minorities are disproportionately affected by high tuition rates. So we've been focused on a lot of different efforts around making sure that we lower tuition and gain more access for fellows in need," Harbach said. "We don't want finances to be a reason why someone doesn't do the program."

Enterprise

SaaS valuations cratered in early 2022. But these startups thrived.

VCs were still bullish on supply chain, recruiting and data startups despite the economic environment that chopped the valuations of newly public companies and late-stage enterprise startups.

While private equity has been investing in enterprise tech for decades, the confluence of several trends in the sector is making it more competitive than ever before.
Image: Getty Images; Protocol

Despite a volatile tech stock market so far this year that has included delayed IPOs, lowered valuations and declining investor sentiment, a few enterprise tech categories managed to keep getting funding. Data platforms, supply chain management tech, workplace software and cybersecurity startups all dominated the funding cycle over the past quarter.

When it comes to enterprise SaaS, the number of mega-deals — VC funding rounds over $100 million — spiked last year, according to data from Pitchbook. Partially driven by the onset of a pandemic that accelerated the need for everything from contact centers to supply chains to move into the cloud, the number of large VC deals tripled between 2020 and 2021. That growth has extended into this year, where the number of mega-deals has already outpaced all of 2020.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Foursquare data story: leveraging location data for site selection

We take a closer look at points of interest and foot traffic patterns to demonstrate how location data can be leveraged to inform better site selecti­on strategies.

Imagine: You’re the leader of a real estate team at a restaurant brand looking to open a new location in Manhattan. You have two options you’re evaluating: one site in SoHo, and another site in the Flatiron neighborhood. Which do you choose?

Keep Reading Show less
Fintech

Plaid is striking back after Stripe entered its core business

Onboarding customers through identity verification and ACH transfers is a hot sector in fintech, and the two fast-growing fintechs are set to battle it out.

Plaid is looking to help banks and fintech companies with anything related to the onboarding of a customer onto a financial product, said Plaid CTO Jean-Denis Greze.

Photo: Plaid

Plaid is moving into identity verification in a crucial expansion beyond its roots connecting banks and fintechs — a move that could put it in more direct competition with Stripe, another company known for its financial software tools.

In conjunction with its Plaid Forum customer conference this week, the company is also announcing two products focused on ACH transfers as it moves into payments.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Workplace

Getting reproductive benefits at work could be a privacy nightmare

A growing number of tech companies are extending abortion-related travel benefits. Given privacy and legal fears, will employees be too scared to use them?

How employers can implement and discuss reproductive benefits in a way that puts employees at ease.

Photo: Sigrid Gombert via Getty Images

It’s about to be a lot harder to get an abortion in the United States. For many, it’s already hard. The result is that employers, including large companies, are being called upon to fill the abortion care gap. The likelihood of a Roe v. Wade reversal was the push some needed to extend benefits, with Microsoft and Tesla announcing abortion-related travel reimbursements in recent weeks. But the privacy and legal risks facing people in need of abortions loom large. If people have reason to fear texting friends for abortion resources, will they really want to confide in their company?

An employee doesn’t have “much to worry about” when it comes to health privacy, said employee benefits consultant Jessica Du Bois. “The HR director or whoever's in charge of the benefits program is not going to be sharing that information.” Employers have a duty to protect employee health data under HIPAA and a variety of state laws. Companies with self-funded health plans — in other words, most large companies — can see every prescription and service an employee receives. But the data is deidentified.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Enterprise

VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram: Edge is growing faster than cloud

The now-standalone company is staking its immediate future on the multicloud era of IT and hybrid work, while anticipating increased demand for edge-computing software.

VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram spoke with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: VMware

Nearly a year into his tenure as CEO, Raghu Raghuram believes VMware is well-positioned for the third phase of its evolution, but acknowledges its product transformation still needs some work.

The company, which pioneered the hypervisor and expanded to virtualized networking and storage with its vSphere operating environment, now is helping customers navigate a distributed, multicloud world and hybrid work with newfound freedom as an independent company after being spun off from Dell Technologies last November.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Latest Stories
Bulletins