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VC Include is driving inclusion in the VC and Impact Investment Space at Scale

Read our Q&A with Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson on building VC Include and the VCI Fellowship to support women and BIPOC emerging managers in the Impact Investment and VC space globally.
Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson VC Include VCI Fellowship

Share a brief overview of your mission and vision for VC Include.

The VCI Fellowship is doing something that has not been done before, which is to source and support high-quality Black, LatinX, Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) led fund managers, or “emerging managers” that are raising their first fund in the VC and Impact/ESG Investment space. We are engaging these new managers whether they are coming from another fund, have a strategy that they have expertise in as an operator, or whether they’re angel investors that have deep experience in a particular sector. We’re dedicated to helping the Fellows grow their funds from Fund I to Fund IV and V.

Data becomes important when we look at diversity and inclusion – metrics are essential because we know that asset allocators historically have trouble identifying diverse managers, which is typical because the asset allocator (LP) and asset manager (GP) ecosystem is 98% white men. There’s an opportunity cost there because diverse managers tend to find great companies that happen to be diverse, and outside of the “traditional investment industry.” There are massive alpha generation opportunities waiting to be captured, both domestically and internationally.

What we’re doing with the VCI Fellowship is encouraging first-time managers to establish themselves in a way that signals their readiness to the investor community. We then engage asset allocators, whether institutional investors, individuals or family offices and foundations to think differently about these alpha-generating opportunities. The Fellowship itself presents an excellent advantage for LPs that have partnered with us to see a cohort of new managers in one place.

How is VC Include Structured?

There are three core parts of VCI. On the for-profit side, we first launched VC Include in 2018 as a curated network of 500+ women and BIPOC emerging managers in the Impact Investment and VC space globally. The platform engages Fund I, II, II managers along with PE and RE funds, many of which already have track records. We’re currently expanding our capacity to engage our pipeline of managers across more asset classes, given the increasing LP interest in our niche strategy.

On the non-profit education and training side, we built the VCI Fellowship program as a response to the needs that many emerging fund managers have.

As a result of our work, we’ve had a lot of interest in asset allocators wanting us to start a vehicle to invest in the best-in-class funds that we’re already supporting, which we are exploring as the third pillar of our offering.

What are some of the challenges you’re looking to overcome with the success of your program?

We recognize that the full-time job of asset managers is to fundraise and invest while they’re raising their fund, and we exist to share best practices and provide support in that process because it’s so tough for diverse managers, particularly for Black, LatinX, and women managers. For any fund manager, white, black, yellow, green — it’s extraordinarily hard to raise a fund, but what I think the traditional industry is starting to understand is that it’s exponentially harder for a black woman GP, for example, to raise a fund than a white guy. Even though it’s hard for a white guy, it is a hundred times harder for a woman that hasn’t been traditionally represented in the investment industry.

We are shining a light on diverse emerging fund managers and showing they’ve come from great schools, have relevant backgrounds, and they have investment experience, even though it doesn’t track to the “norm.” They might not have the access to networks and capital the way a traditional white guy that’s been in the industry has had, but they have the ability to make great investments and generate alpha for LPs. We want to supercharge their efforts in ways that add value, with dedicated partners that recognize that there’s this massive opportunity to generate alpha by choosing some of these managers that have been traditionally overlooked.

In December, you announced the inaugural VCI Fellowship for BIPOC first-time fund managers. Can you tell us more about what incoming fund managers can expect from the program?

At the end of February, VC Include will announce the 10 to 12 funds that will go through a nine-month program. It’s a bespoke program designed for the Fellows selected, providing back-office support, knowledge exchange, ESG integration, and peer-to-peer learning. We provide connections to some of the largest asset allocators in the US and in the world to share expert advice around how to design their fundraising strategy for the long term. We also provide mentorship and professional development for the Fellows.

How do you utilize DocSend at VC Include?

We typically use DocSend to share our materials with potential donors and sponsors. We’re excited to use the tracking mechanism so we know who’s looking at our materials, how long they’re looking, and if they’re sharing it with other people. Particularly for a niche strategy like ours, it is really important, proprietary data that we need to collect because otherwise our materials are just being shared willy nilly and we don’t know who’s looking at them or who’s taking them and replicating them (you’d be surprised where some of our language shows up). Because of the fact that we are in a position to drive diversity and alpha, it’s really important to us not to have copycats out there using our materials and not really being authentic about the way that they’re dedicated to this space and moving it forward. DocSend has been really important for us in mitigating some of those human behaviors.

How can organizations support VC Include and the VCI Fellowship?

We are always fundraising and recruiting sponsors and partners to support the VCI Fellowship (the non-profit) and the VCI platform (for profit, advisory firm). Some notable current sponsors and partners include the MacArthur Foundation, Visa Foundation, UBS, and the Blue Haven Initiative. Our current and future sponsors and partners are committed to increasing diversity in the investment industry, particularly in alternative investments, and have a keen interest in impact.

For diverse emerging fund managers and LPs interested in our platform and programs, we encourage them to visit our website to learn more.

About Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson:

Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson is a recognized innovator of new avenues for VC and Impact investment. Her expertise in leading technology, investment, and social impact initiatives since the early 2000s culminated in creating VC Include in 2018 to build platforms and programs for diverse emerging managers globally. Robinson is a Bloomberg News New Voices Fellow, served as Co-chair of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis. Her work has been recognized by the Knight Foundation, SOCAP, Toniic, Crunchbase, Impact Alpha, Echoing Green, Entrepreneur, CNN, and Forbes.