How We Rise: Strategies for Social Innovation — My Take Away from Tracy Gray, Founder of The 22 Fund

August 3, 2018

Tracy Gray (left) during the keynote lunch panel at the 26th Kravis-de Roulet conference.

*KLI Programs launched the third of the four Non-Profit Success series conferences on March 1, 2018 incorporating it with the Kravis-de Roulet conference (KDR). How We Rise: Strategies for Social Innovation was a day and a half focused on developing skill sets required to accelerate transformative and lasting impact.

The program kicked off with an Athenaeum dinner where Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, gave her keynote address on executing responsible leadership in the 21 century. The official launch the following morning, began with two speeches — one from Tina Rosenberg, Co-Founder NYT Fixes Column, on Building a Culture of Solutions Thinking and another from Kathleen Kelly on social startup success, on How Do the Best Startups, Scale Up, and Make a Difference.

The momentum continued throughout the morning and all breakout session participants came together for lunch for an impressive panel of female serial entrepreneurs, venture capital (VC) founders, and social innovators. These female leaders talked about their diverse career paths and shared their respective journey towards social innovation. The women encouraged students to take advantage of the growing momentum the social innovation trend has gained in the corporate sector.

It was amazing to hear the diversity of options surrounding a career in social innovation. Tracy Gray, founder and managing partner of The 22 Fund, and Executive in Residence at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) talked about founding her own VC that targets funding for women and people of color and her experience at LACI. She spoke about gender disparities in venture capital industry. Over the last twenty years, there has been a decline of women in VCs. Gray thought there was something wrong with this equation, so she started her own VC to democratize startup investment.

Gray explained, “I wanted women to know that they were empowered to change the world. If women had the same access to capital during the recession, we would have created double the jobs. It is an economic empowerment to invest in women.” The 22 Fund VC is currently raising their fund and is looking towards investing in the future.

“All of this is very opportunistic no trade-off because women and people of color’s companies are more successful at almost every measurement of financial return. I am not trading off anything. I just have to invest in things that have a mission and be intentional about the returns I want to get.”

Gray left the audience with an inspiring endnote that resonated with many CMC students, especially given our preprofessional inclinations.

“I wanted to make a ton of money, and I wanted to do a ton of good, and I was constantly being told that I couldn’t do both. My goal was to find ways to do good and not trade off market rate returns. Now the world is understanding that this is possible,” said Tracy.

This lunch proved to students that they do not have to decide to make that trade-off. It showed students the multitude of options that are available to them in social innovation.

*KLI Programs is now known as the Kravis Lab for Social Impact

Written by Linnea Uyeno ‘20