Why I think diversity is so important to the future of innovation
Everyone has a story.
In my case, my story involves living in 3 major continents — Asia, South and North America. It meant re-inventing myself and starting a new entrepreneurial journey each time. I feel fortunate to have experienced environments that required people to scratch, claw, and hustle just in order to survive.
I grew up under very entrepreneurial parents in a not so entrepreneurial environment (at the time) in South America. Sure, life was simple and pretty utopian back then (I confidently can say that ignorance is truly bliss), but whenever I would meet tourists with their latest cameras or gadgets, it made me feel like I was missing something. Because of this feeling I decided to leave Puerto Iguazu, and settled into the heart of America in Hays, Kansas. From there, I went to grad school and focused on studying fundraising management for businesses. Because I had seen the less than ideal environment my parents had to work with as entrepreneurs, I wanted to find ways to promote and foster entrepreneurialism, regardless of location, gender, race, or economic class.
So I decided to make another big move again, and moved to Silicon Valley to work, live, and breathe startup life. It was here in Silicon Valley where I worked at a donation-based crowdfunding startup, helped manage a tech accelerator focused on US Latino and Latin-American founders, co-authored a book focused on female investing and entrepreneurship, and joined the prestigious Kauffman Fellows program.
It was at the Kauffman Fellows program that I met my (now) colleague, who implored me to think about taking yet another pivot in my life, and join him in his team’s efforts at First Republic Bank (FRB) to build the tech and venture practice. While banking was never on my radar (I always grew up thinking that banks were stodgy and anything but innovative), I decided to take a deeper look and realized that the bank valued a few things I found very compelling:
1) Diversity — the leadership of the bank is amongst the most diverse of any large corporation, with a gender mix that is almost unheard of (more on this later).
2) Promoting the entrepreneurial ecosystem through a dedicated focus on serving the community.
3) An organization that encourages employees to be their own entrepreneurs.
So I decided to join, and now a little over a year in, I’m ecstatic that I did as I get to work with some of the smartest and most innovative people in the tech and venture ecosystem. More importantly, the bank embraces my passion around fostering diversity as it’s what has helped us as an organization to succeed (one of our two founders is female).
Going back to my journey of diverse experiences and people, one of my key initiatives and passions is to help foster further diversity in the innovation and venture investing space. Fortunately, we’re starting to see some progress as the number of female investors and entrepreneurs is continuing to rise (albeit slower than I’d like). On the investing side, the Micro-VC explosion (which is a key focus of ours) has helped usher in great new female investing talent.
Over the past year, I’ve focused much of my time on the Women In Venture (WIV) community, which includes investors of all types and levels. Through dinners, forums, thought pieces, and events, we’re starting to see the beginnings of a defined community filled with high-caliber women that want to drive innovation and help the entrepreneurial community in any way possible. I’m excited about this effort, and am looking forward to building this community in the coming years.
Diversity and innovation are intertwined and here to stay. I’m making it my job to help accelerate diversity in venture in any way I can.