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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."

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

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Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

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J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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