500 Startups has always been in the business of challenging conventional wisdom in the venture capital industry. Since our inception, we’ve focused on taking our expertise wherever there is talent. That’s taken us to some flung corners of the earth and compelled us to look in oft-overlooked places in our own communities. We’ve baked this diversity into our DNA, trying our hardest to be champions of the world, not as it is, but as we’d like to see it.
Don’t be mistaken. We don’t do this for charity, or to boost our social profile, or even to make ourselves sleep better at night (although those are obvious benefits.) We do it because it just makes sense. We do it because it makes money. Diversity is the lifeblood of innovation in the 21st century.
Peter Thiel asks “what valuable business is nobody building?” in his book Zero to One. He posits that many of the world’s largest tech companies are built on unconventional ideas about how the world works. To tackle today’s problems and create tomorrow’s biggest companies, we’ll need complex solutions; solutions incubated by people who look at problems from unconventional angles. We’ll need investors willing to invest in those solutions and products.
In 2016, we ran a number of investor education programs with the goal of reaching the next generation of angels, fund managers, and lawyers in the venture capital industry. While we experienced wide–ranging diversity in our last Deal Camp program, we were disappointed that our class consisted of just 15% women. In 2017, we’re pushing towards more gender equity by announcing our Women Invest Initiative for the upcoming Venture Capital Unlocked: Deal Camp program. Deal Camp is a four-day course focused on the legal mechanics of deal making for investors who want to improve their ability to define, negotiate, and execute early-stage investments. We’re offering a 25% discount on the Deal Camp program fee for any woman who recruits another woman to attend the program (Application Deadline: Monday, January 23rd). Both women must identify each other in their applications and attend the program for the discount to apply.
We don’t want the conversation about diversity and inclusion to be relegated to small bubbles on the internet. We want to see change. So, if you’re in the LA area this weekend. Please join us for our Unity & Inclusion Summit. It’s a one-day event bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and the tech community to talk about the current state and future of diversity & inclusion. Details on the summit can be found here: http://bit.ly/500diversity.
Header image courtesy of wocintechchat.com.