Diversity VC Internship 2019 — Interview with Rumbi Makanga
By Leah Martin
Episode 1 are pleased that we chose to be involved in Diversity VC’s internship program. Out of 800 applicants we are lucky enough to have Rumbi Makanga work with us for the next 5 weeks. She’s new to the industry, but already seems to be a natural working amongst our entrepreneurs and startups.
I asked her some questions following her first week to find out how she’s getting on…
What’s your name and where do you come from?
I’m Rumbi Makanga. I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and moved to the UK aged 9.
How did you first hear about the internship program and what drove you to apply?
I saw posts on social media about the programme and on further interrogation it looked really interesting. I’ve worked with early stage startups in the past and I’ve always been intrigued about how VCs approach funding decisions. This was a great opportunity to explore that, and also great access to a hard-to-get-into sector.
What are you hoping to achieve during your time at Episode 1?
It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in just a week. I wanted to gain an understanding of how VCs evaluate startups, and also to deepen my knowledge of the financial side. I’ve found that really intriguing so far. There’s a lot more I’d like to learn on the deal execution side of things, and also all the things I don’t know.
What was your previous knowledge of VC and how have your views/opinions changed?
I knew only a small amount. At the end of my job in consulting, I’d worked on fundraising for our portfolio clients — that sparked my initial interest in VC.
I think the biggest two changes in my opinion are: 1) VCs are not the evil, shady characters they are often depicted as (at least the ones I’ve encountered). It’s been incredible to have access to super smart people in this industry supporting us, delivering workshops for us and of course to be working alongside those people as well. 2) I always assumed that VCs spent most of their time swimming in spreadsheets, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much time is spent in highly interactive and engaging activities e.g. meetings with entrepreneurs, at events etc.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to participate in the program next year?
The program is competitive, and I imagine it will be even more competitive in the following years. Many people I’ve spoken to can’t believe they got on. My advice would be: apply so you can be one of those people too. And once you’re on the programme make the most of it — it’s a brilliant opportunity.
What’s the most interesting thing you have learnt so far?
I’ve found the financials interesting (fund mechanics, transaction economics, valuation, market sizing etc.), both from a purely intellectual angle and also on a practical level. However, at the Seed and Series A stage, you’re making decisions based on limited information, and I’ve enjoyed observing how my team members navigate that and find a balance between objective and subjective evaluation.
If you were to start your own tech business what would it be?
I’ve been chronically unwell through the entirety of my 20s, and it’s likely I’ll continue to be. This has meant that I’ve had a lot of experience with the NHS. I see first hand how badly it handles patients with chronic long-term illness and so that’s a scratch-your-own-itch kind of problem I’d love to solve. Outside of that, something that solves a big intractable problem.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
I think there are two layers to this. Firstly, there’s a structural problem, which means in this context that the people funding companies and the people starting up and receiving funding for their companies don’t reflect the society we live in. That’s not just a moral problem, it’s also an economic cost. Secondly, because of this structural problem, people who are different (beyond race and gender only) aren’t set up to thrive.
So for me, diversity and inclusion mean that on a basic level, institutions are more representative, access to resources and opportunity is more equal, and our organisations are set up so that the maximum number of people can succeed within them. It’s complex — it requires intentional interrogation and action, which needs to be supported by questioning and unlearning biases, unconscious and otherwise.
What is the ideal outcome for you following the internship?
I’ve found the work really interesting and I’d certainly like to explore careers in VC further. By the end, I’d like to have developed core skills and knowledge, have a built out network in this space and ultimately I’m thinking about where my skill set, interests and passions would be best suited.