In this collection of interviews, stories, and research, we use the momentum that has been building in recent years to expand the conversation about DEI, venture capital, and the startup ecosystem, and to inspire more concrete action.
In this book you’ll find 43 in-depth conversations with a diverse group of researchers, investors, and entrepreneurs, making it one of the most comprehensive and diverse sets of perspectives on the startup ecosystem ever assembled in one place.
Our intent is that our voices will provide enough guidance and commentary to make sense of what we have heard through these conversations—spanning Europe and the US, and involving more than 85 interview partners.
This is a large collection. We encourage you to read it sequentially, or if you prefer, use the table of contents to find and jump into the conversations you wish to engage with.
Over 80 entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers from around the world were gracious enough to have conversations with us for this guide.
In Part I: History, we investigate the history of the venture capital industry and how we got here. The current homogeneity of VC (and the tech industry) has historical roots in the economic model of VCs—partnerships of GPs that are investing LPs’ money—and the birth of the industry from old family money. VCs make early-stage investments based on gut feelings, excitement, networks, and people, rather than market sizes and revenue growth. This facilitates the reproduction of pre-existing networks, often based on families, universities, and other business ties. We dive into how this came to be with two historical retrospectives, interviews with university professors on their research in these areas, and panel interviews with six female investors who came up early on in the US and UK venture industry.
In Part II: Experiences, we seek to expand common uses of the term “diversity” to include not just gender and ethnicity, but immigration status, socioeconomic background or class, educational background, disability, age, sexual orientation, and geography. Drawing on contributions from investors, operators, founders, and journalists, personal stories and narratives provide valuable insights to the situation on the ground through the eyes of those affected. Most importantly, it will become crucial going forward to understand how this kaleidoscope of dimensions intersect, a topic of conversation we pick up in this part, too.
Part III: Best Practices covers concrete action and best practices from a range of operators who have been pushing for change from within the ecosystem. Building on the conclusions drawn in Part I: History and the personal accounts in Part II: Experiences, this section provides inspiration for tangible action, based on best practices that have been tested in the industry. In the set of 17 interviews, we dive beyond research and numbers to speak to a plethora of overlooked GPs, ecosystem builders, LPs, and policymakers about their trailblazing experiments, in hopes of inspiring others to follow their lead.
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In Part IV: New Ideas, we look beyond the VC ecosystem to share more radical and groundbreaking ideas. While we are confident that internal initiatives and the increased opening up of angel programs will help lead to long-term change, creating completely new flywheels is as important as improving old ones. From interviews with emerging VC managers to initiatives such as Zebras Unite, Village Capital, or the New Mittelstand, a different set of actors is starting to push into the industry from the outside. We also observe how otherwise-established players such as Twitter and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center have the potential to create new flywheels from outside the VC industry.
important Please note that all interviews have been lightly edited for clarity. We’ve done our best to preserve both the substance and style of each conversation.
We learned an incredible amount in researching and writing this volume, and the bottom line for us is clear: neither diversity, nor equity or inclusion in VC and tech have come as far as they should have given the intense focus on this area in recent years. Many of the past and ongoing efforts are laudable and have led to some changes, but we need more powerful ecosystem players to engage in more radical and tangible action to make a difference. We hope this volume can serve as one starting point to inspire momentum.
We want to thank, with all our hearts, everyone—over 80 entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers—who spoke to us so openly.
It was heartwarming that whomever we approached, they were willing to share their ideas and insights.* While coordinating calendars between up to six incredibly busy people across multiple time zones wasn’t always simple and took effort and goodwill, we made it work collectively. Thank you everyone for believing in the common cause and pushing forward.
A special thanks obviously goes to the team at Holloway; we went from what Johannes thought looked like a scam message on LinkedIn (there are lots of those in this world), to hours and hours spent talking to our phenomenal editors Rachel and Carolyn with lots of freedom, and input from Holloway CEO Josh. Without your support and belief in our unlikely coupling and project, this wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts—also for having such patience with us! A very special thank you also to Eana, who helped us with all the transcriptions forming the basis for the interviews—this book wouldn’t have been possible without you!
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