For VCs, Diversity Is a Competitive Advantage
Authors: Marienne Caro and Lea Freeman from Qualcomm Ventures
The VC world loves its buzzwords. Disruption. Angels. Unicorns. Behind that jargon is a community of real people working together to help bring great ideas to the world. However, for a community with such a rich vocabulary, we struggle when talking about two words that dramatically impact our industry: diversity and inclusion. Rather than focusing simply on those words, it’s time we gave attention to the connections that they build and the opportunities that they create.
The power of those connections was evident at the event we hosted on June 29. A group of female founders, CEOs, venture capitalists, and industry leaders gathered to discuss AI’s role in the connected world, and the current and future impact of frontier technology. The evening included insightful panels consisting of successful female entrepreneurs and investors, such as Linda Pouliot, CEO of Dishcraft Robotics, and Nima CEO Shireen Yates. During the investor panel discussion, Ann Crady Weiss, CEO of Hatch Baby and a venture partner at True Ventures, and Renata Quintini, a partner at Lux Capital, discussed how diversity and inclusion facilitate real business success. Whether it’s a founder meeting with an investor or a company finding its audience, D&I is a conduit to the connections that everyone in our industry is looking to build.
It’s easy to stay within our professional circles when seeking advice, building leadership teams, staffing startups, and assembling boards. But what is that accomplishing other than constructing artificial ceilings on top of success? Diversity, of course, is not only about gender, skin color, or other visible differences. As Renata noted in the panel discussion, it is also defined by the experiences and perspectives behind them. In expanding our networks and connecting with those who have found success elsewhere, we dramatically expand our potential to find more talented people with whom to work and larger audiences to enjoy our products and services.
“Different experiences bring something to the table,” she added. “It makes the process so much richer.”
That process — be it starting a company or investing in one — will ultimately be judged on its financial success. But those goals are aligned with creating an inclusive leadership team and workforce. When advising founders, Ann tells them, “you have to hit your milestones, but I want you to go beyond your echo chamber.”
Breaking out of those echo chambers is a competitive advantage, as new connections create opportunities for growth that impacts the bottom line and corporate cultures.
The things we can control are also critical to success — like how ideas are pitched and how founders are positioned. “Female founders undersell themselves,” Renata said. Instead, “women need to own it.” We need to push our ideas and own our successes if we want to effect change in our industry. If we make ignoring us a missed opportunity, we make connecting with us a key differentiator.
“The way you change the game is by being successful,” Ann observed, “and the way to be successful is by doing what you need to do in today’s world without compromising your values.” With success comes influence and the ability to provide opportunities for others. “I want to be part of helping to democratize access,” she continued. As more women rise to prominence in tech, more mentors and support will be available to create the relationships that produce the next wave of leaders in our industry.
So how do we drive that change and continue the progress that’s already being made? Ann noted that accelerators are connecting founders with investors and mentors that previously would have been beyond their reach. Renata offered an even simpler solution: ask questions. Connect with people by listening to their stories about how they do their work and what their processes are. That’s how you expand your network beyond the echo chamber of former classmates, colleagues, and referrals.
Through real connections, we make diversity and inclusion so much more than buzzwords. At Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Incorporated, we help build the connections that matter. In doing so, we make the conversation more human, as it becomes less about checking boxes and preserving optics, and more about building the strongest teams and exploring the best ideas. Ultimately, we all speak the same language in our community. Diversity and inclusion are about making sure everyone has a chance to be part of the conversation.
Marienne is a Sr. marketing manager for Qualcomm Ventures and drives the firm’s overall marketing and PR strategies.
Lea serves as a Sr. financial analyst with Qualcomm Ventures and primarily assists in financial modelling, due diligence and tracking analysis for prospective and current investments.
Learn more about Marienne & Lea: https://www.qualcommventures.com/team
Read our Spotlight Series Q&As from the “AI’s Role in the Connected World” event: