Richard Kerby on Life as an Investor and Increasing Diversity in Tech

The most important lesson I learned this year is that fundraising is a lot more difficult than the shiny, “Livefyre Scores Funding from Salesforce and Adobe,” headline implies.

When we first started 33founders, I was in awe of founders who raised capital. I’d excitedly announce their Series A or Series B to congratulate them. They’d thank me, and we’d move on.

Two years ago I had no idea who a venture capitalist was or what they did. The business intimidated me; And, it wasn’t until just recently that I let go of my fear of asking naive questions to dig deeper than the headlines.

Fortunately for me, Richard Kerby, Vice President at Venrock, made the process incredibly simple.

Between sharing the step-by-step story of how the firm invested in Luxe, to addressing how we can increase diversity in tech, Richard’s genuine desire to welcome individuals to the industry is contagious.

Since joining the team in 2012, Richard’s led investments in Luxe, 6sense, Burner, Beckon, and Better Finance.

As he shares in our conversation, the process begins by taking a chance on entrepreneurs.

According to Richard, the only way to get a return is to take a risk.

Venture capital is an apprenticeship…More challenges bring more opportunities.
- Richard’s adamant about always finding ways to say yes.

Richard’s passionate — We’re talking jump out of bed excited (He really does this every day!) — about the startups he can’t stop thinking about. Luxe is a great example and the firm invested in just three weeks.

When things are really fast, and it’s exciting, you want to get ahead of it. You don’t want to miss it. You have to move fast sometimes.
- Richard on investing in Luxe.

I admire Richard most because of his commitment to supporting each of the companies he backs.

In the words of my favorite author Elle Luna, it’s undeniable that he’s ‘Choosing Must.’

Whether it’s playing a role in hiring or helping drive sales (he likes to think of himself as a part-time sales rep), Richard aims to be an active partner for each member on the team.

The CEO has challenges and issues but so does everyone else.
- Richard’s thoughts on investors working with the entire organization.

With this in mind, he’s adamant about getting to know each team member and ensuring they feel comfortable reaching out to him. This quality is especially important for determining how potential hires fit in a company’s culture.

Part of Richard’s commitment to hiring stems from friends and founders reaching out to him to help increase diversity on their teams.

According to his recent post Why Are There So Few Black Investors?, less than 2% of the team members at Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Yahoo, and LinkedIn are African American. The percentage is less, at 1.5%, for investors.

Between connecting founders with a diverse group of potential hires to running Stealth Mode — A community for African-Americans in tech — with Charles Hudson, Richard’s working hard to expose the rising generation to careers in technology and investing.

He believes the first step is for individuals to immerse themselves in the environment.

I love how he suggests teens and recent graduates dissect the products and services they use each day.

Thus, instead of a high school student simply posting his or her homecoming photo on Instagram they should seek to understand why they’re motivated to do so. What drives their friends to like the photos? As well as the psychology behind the thrill of each buzzing notification?

Education is the next step, both in and out of schools. In addition to extracurriculars, there are countless online tools to learn just about anything for free.

Most importantly, the end goal isn’t for everyone to pursue a career in tech; it’s simply to provide equal exposure and opportunity.

To learn more about Richard’s work as an investor and leader tune into his episode of 33founders and follow him here.

Originally published at www.33voices.com.

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