The business case for supporting diverse teams is cut and dried. This blog is not the place for a recap of the comprehensive and compelling data on the topic. Instead, we want to move the conversation forward from “Why?” to “Here’s how.”
The past year, and especially the past month since International Women’s Day, has exploded with new voices, organizations, and initiatives for moving the tech and venture industries forward. It has sparked conversation and, more importantly, action, not just in the broader community but also in our own tight-knit office at Laconia.
When I received an offer to join Laconia full-time about a year and a half ago, I was ecstatic. Having entered the VC world at age 19, I had already learned the hard way how important it is to work with advocates and allies. My decision to join Laconia full-time was solidified in no small part by Jeffrey’s & David’s demonstrated commitments to transparency, inclusiveness, and empowerment.
This topic is deeply important to me, and I personally vouch for our whole team’s commitment to going to bat for underrepresented founders and to doing what is right. We will inevitably make mistakes. We will listen, learn, and improve.
Pushed by the #MovingForward initiative to articulate this commitment, we are publishing our official policy on diversity, inclusion, and anti-harassment. Part of me can’t believe that most of this has to be said, but here it is, loud and clear:
Laconia is committed to building a safe, transparent, and collaborative environment for our entire community, including but not limited to entrepreneurs, employees, interns, Limited Partners, vendors, and other ecosystem partners. Diversity, inclusivity, and transparency will remain core to our business and the community we are building.
We believe that investing in diverse and ethical teams leads to better decisions, outcomes, and returns. We are committed to increasing our investments in underrepresented founders, who comprise 23% of our portfolio to date (as of 4/2018). We will not back founders who have been found to engage in discrimination, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment.
We have zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, or retaliation of any kind with regard to anyone in our business network, including founders, investors, co-investors, vendors, and, of course, our own team members. We will appropriately and confidentially investigate reported misconduct of any kind. Any incidence can be reported to any member of our team.
We will continue finding the best ways to support, encourage, and engage entrepreneurs to build a more representative, safe, and inclusive community. We are adding the VC Inclusion Clause to all future term sheets and continuing conversations with existing portfolio companies regarding their diverse hiring goals.
Beyond our internal teams and portfolio companies, we are extending our diversity goals to our vendors as well. We are making it clear that team composition is a component of our evaluation criteria for vendors and partners, encouraging company-wide diverse representation and working toward ecosystem-wide progress.
Below are a handful of our active initiatives to expand access to the venture network to those who may not be connected to us already through traditional channels:
Mentor Meetings: Any founder can sign up on our website to come meet with us for 30 minutes to ask any and all questions about raising capital and building their business. No warm intro or context needed; just sign up, show up, and share with other founders.
Office Hours and Partnerships: Same idea as the above, except we come to you at your co-working space/incubator. Please reach out if we’re missing your space.
Mentorship through organizations focused on underrepresented founders such as Monarq. Please reach out if you are part of an organization that could benefit from our time.
We run an intensive, immersive, and mentorship-driven undergraduate internship program, training a pipeline of next-generation investors and entrepreneurs. 80% of our interns have been of diverse backgrounds. (Yes, we evaluate cold inquiries.)
It might take us a while, but we do our absolute best to answer all cold inbound emails (blatant spam/mass mailings not included).
Lastly, this post would be incomplete if we did not highlight some of the many initiatives and resources that have made us exponentially more thoughtful about our processes & have pushed us to be more vocal about our goals:
We look forward to continuing this discussion about the role that diversity plays in venture capital, tech, and society more broadly to build a fairer and more productive world.