The VCI Fellowship for BIPOC First-Time Fund Managers is open to first-time fund managers for funds based in the United States. The fellowship is aimed at first-time fund managers who are looking to raise between $10 million and $100 million.
As a Black woman working in venture capital, VC Include founder Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson saw a lot of funds and fund managers not getting capitalized. And after working with Africa and the United States with Black and female founders, she realized around 2017 that there was a “supply chain” issue at the asset manager level. VC Include was founded in 2018 by Robinson to drive investment in diverse groups of managers, including Black, Latinx, LGBTQ and Indigenous managers.
The idea for the VCI fellowship came after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. There was interest from limited partners in investing in underrepresented groups and interest from general partners who were launching new funds and wanted to be part of the VC Include platform.
“For VCI, and from my perspective, it’s about long-term capital across the lifecycle of funds. And if you get into the ground level of a first-time fund you have to be able to understand what it takes to raise that fund, fund two, fund three,” Robinson said in an interview with Crunchbase News.
Those who are selected for the fellowship will begin the the nine-month program in February. Fellows will receive mentorship from leaders in the industry and participate in training workshops and “curated LP showcases,” where VCI will bring in limited partners who are interested in investing in fund managers from underrepresented groups.
The first cohort is designed for U.S.-based funds, and Robinson expects the cohort to be made up of about 10 to 12 full funds. Applications for the fellowship are now open and close on Jan. 15, 2021.
The lack of diversity in tech and venture capital isn’t new. As we’ve reported before, only 1 percent of venture-backed founders are Black, and Latino founders make up 1.8 percent of those receiving funding. According to VC Include, only 1 percent of asset managers are of diverse backgrounds or women. Robinson said that in order for there to be more underrepresented founders, there needs to be more underrepresented fund managers.
“It’s education and training,” she said. “The concept is to level the playing field, so what are those insights from industry leaders that are going to help those funds, that are going to make the funds differentiate themselves in very unique ways, and what are some of the pitfalls that experts have already learned lessons from that they can share?”