Growth Profiles: How CapitalG’s General Counsel is Helping Shape Venture Capital’s Push for Diversity
As part of our ongoing Growth Profiles series, today we’d like to introduce you to Jeremiah Gordon, CapitalG’s General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer and one of the National Diversity Council’s Most Influential African Americans in Business for 2021.
In his own words, you’ll hear Jeremiah’s insights on venture capital’s push for diversity, the EID (Equity, Inclusion and Diversity) initiatives he’s most excited about, and how other leaders can drive progress in their own organizations. Enjoy!
So Jeremiah, as general counsel you’re in charge of all things legal. Can you tell us what that entails, and what would you say makes your work at CapitalG so unique?
Sure, so as general counsel I’m the executive responsible for all of our fund’s legal work including investment documentation, portfolio exits, board director advising and all of our other commercial arrangements. I also work with the growth team, helping our portfolio companies scale their operations, especially on the people & talent side.
Aside from a deep interest in venture capital and technology, what brought me to CapitalG was my relationship with David Lawee from my time as senior corporate counsel at Google and my interest in working with leading technologists and investors. CapitalG invests where traditional VC might not, specifically more traditional industries due for an evolution like insurance (like Next Insurance) and healthcare (like Oscar). Many of the entrepreneurs we work with are trying to solve 21st century problems with 19th and 20th century regulations. It’s an interesting place to be.
In addition to your “day job,” you’re also a member of CapitalG’s EID committee. Can you tell us about your work there?
Definitely. So there are two types of issues that we’re focused on: internal and external. Internally we think about how we can make CapitalG more inclusive and equitable. A lot of that work is around hiring, promotions, and driving inclusive team interactions in order to be the best we can be. Externally, we’re focused on making sure that we, as an organization with a platform and a voice in the industry, are making the most of our platform — and helping our portfolio companies live up to that same commitment. We have some exciting announcements coming up and I’m proud of the program we’ve built to support the EID leaders in our network.
Venture capital is in both a difficult place and a relatively easy place when it comes to change and diversity. It’s difficult because it’s entrenched in its ways — VC is an old-school industry that has run the same way since itsinception. At the same time it’s easy because it’s so small. Where other types of companies need to make massive changes to their process and hire thousands of new workers to make a dent in their representation, venture capital is so small that simply adding 3–4 people to the table at each firm could have an outsized impact. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done.
What has the last year been like for EID work, and what do you see as the biggest opportunities to continue moving forward in the immediate future and the long term?
It’s been a challenging year for our nation and our industry. In the context of George Floyd, a lot of corporations made announcements about their commitment to becoming investors with more diverse companies and founders, like Alphabet’s $100 million commitment to Black-led capital firms and startups — an initiative I’m thrilled to be involved with. Industry-wide progress takes time, but the capital is being deployed and creating a more inclusive group of VCs and fund managers.
Longer term, I’d really like to see more analysis around who has a seat at the table in terms of background, experience, and level of diversity. That, and more analysis of who’s being funded. I’ve seen some of that data and there is still a lot of progress to be made based on how our society really looks. I’m hopeful that doing the work and looking at the data will nudge investors to be more thoughtful with their decisions.
Thanks for your time, Jeremiah. Last question: how can business leaders promote diversity in their own organizations?
It may sound simple but my best advice is to develop relationships with senior leadership and stay involved. It really changes people’s outlook and perception when there are more people around the table pushing for change. But it will never be easy. This work can sometimes be discouraging and frustrating because of how much progress needs to be made, but if you’re committed, now is a time where you can cause a lot of good.
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