16 Apr 2020

Leading by example – diversity and inclusion at BGV

By Dama Sathianathan

We’re big believers in Mitch Kapor’s statement that, “genius is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.” Our aim at BGV is to change the distribution of opportunity by increasing diversity and inclusion among the founders we invest in and our team. This article is to share the steps we’re taking to do that.

Our commitment to founders and teams

Last year’s UK VC & Female Founders report by the British Business Bank, BVCA, and Diversity VC highlighted some worrying trends in the VC industry. According to the report, less than 1p of every £1 invested went to all female-founder teams in 2017, and warm introductions to VCs are 13x more likely to lead to funding success, which puts founders from under-represented backgrounds without these networks at a significant disadvantage.

At BGV, we’re always striving to champion diversity and commit to making ourselves available to speak to founders, regardless of their backgrounds or networks. We’ve done this since we started in 2012. We’ve always held drop-in sessions and open Q&A events for potential applicants for our programmes ahead of application deadlines, and run Tech for Good meetups throughout the year. But in the last year, we’ve simplified the process of how teams can get in touch at any given time to provide more chances to meet us and learn more about what we offer. For both our programmes in 2019, we met 94 people through drop-in sessions, and another 129 at BGV events.

Another takeaway from the UK VC & Female Founders Report was that VC investments are notoriously unbalanced. We had a hunch that our investment decisions paint a better picture, and crunched the numbers for all investments since 2012. While we’re still working to improve, we’re pleased that our results are significantly better than the average. In 2019, 22p out of every £1 invested went to all female-founder teams, 23p went to mixed-gender founder teams and 54p to all-male founder teams. 

 

Others steps we’re taking to increase diversity of founders

Maximising opportunities at the application stage and before. Our interview panel for the selection of our teams on the programmes includes a balanced mix of men and women, and a mix of skills and experience. Over the past year, members of our teams participated in various programmes and office hours in partnership with networks that are focused on improving access for diverse talent, like OneTech’s Female Founders office hours, YSYS Foundersdoor, TechHub and more. Collectively, we’ve spoken at over 100 events about BGV and tech for good, encouraging more people to become tech for good founders. 

Gathering and sharing data. We include gender diversity reporting (number of female and non-binary employees) in our quarterly reporting forms. At the end of 2019, our portfolio companies employed 362 full-time employees, of which 46.5% identify as female, exceeding the UK tech sector average of 19%, and 0.33%, who identify as non-binary. 15 of our active ventures report that they collect additional employee diversity data beyond age and gender.

Diversity and inclusion in our Tech for Good programme. We run workshops on team culture and inclusion during the programme trying to bake in diversity from the start. Sprints on designing with people in mind also include unintended consequence scanning to ensure product and service design decisions are inclusive, especially for tech for good products that are prioritising the needs of marginalised communities and individuals. Additionally we have a range of mentors and partners in our network, who provide their expertise on accessibility on a regular basis. 

If it’s not diverse by design, it will be unequal by outcome.  ~ Chi Onwurah. 

Representation matters, which is why we promote a diverse range of founders and speakers in the events we run. At last year’s tech for good meetups we had eleven speakers who identified as womxn, and eight as men with different socio-economic and religious backgrounds and sexual orientations. 

 

Diversity and inclusion within the BGV Team

Leading by example also means being transparent about our own team’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Led by our Insights and Operation Manager Yumi, we surveyed the BGV Team, Board of Directors, and Investment Committee and are happy to share our findings in our 2019 Learning and Impact Report, but read on for a snapshot.

 

How do we compare to the UK VC industry? 

We are doing well on gender diversity, with 68.8% of BGV’s employees identifying as female, which is more than double the London VC industry average. 83.3% of partners at BGV are women compared to only 13% of partners at UK VCs in 2019. We’re also slightly more diverse in terms of our ethnic backgrounds with 31.3% of BGV’s employees having an ethnic minority background. 100% of our respondents have obtained a university degree vs. 96% across all UK VCs.

We’re also doing well on perceptions of our diversity efforts: 100% of our team believe BGV values diversity and 94% believe that BGV builds teams that are diverse. Importantly, we were pleased to see that our team generally feel that they have a voice: 88% believe that when their opinion is shared, it is valued.

 

Others steps we’re taking to increase diversity and inclusion within BGV

Embedding diversity and inclusion in our hiring process. We introduced a blind recruitment process in 2017, using Applied and make sure that jobs are as widely shared within diversity networks as possible. Our go to platforms are, YSYS who also boast a free jobs platformAdaslistFemstreet and many more. Every year, we run internship programmes (paid at the London Living Wage), which serves as an entry point for talented people to shape the future of VC, and were pleased to take part in last year’s inaugural FutureVC programme as well. 

We’re a certified B Corp, which ensures our commitment to meeting verified standards of social and environmental performance, and transparency and accountability. We’ll detail the importance of B Corps in a future blog post about operationalising purpose, but within the context of diversity and inclusion the B Impact Assessment ensures we’re held accountable to provide fair compensation, benefits and training to all our employees and include reporting for example on the percentage of under-represented individuals in management positions, or report on our wage equity. At BGV the difference between the lowest and highest paid employee is 4x.

We share user manuals within BGV (h/t to our friend Cassie Robinson for the template), which provide helpful context of individuals’ needs and preferred ways of working in our team and share a company user manual for anyone keen to get to know us. We also include it in our programme to help teams get the most out of their mentoring sessions at BGV. 

Our work environment is fueled by purposeOur principles reflect our values and guide how the BGV team works with founders and our wider community. Our regular office space at x+why is not only wheelchair-accessible, but it also brings with it a community of fellow B Corps and purpose-driven businesses, but we encourage flexible working and have policies in place that for example help individuals in our team to work from home as and when they require (permanently for the time being to keep everyone safe) and encourage continuous learning and development opportunities with an annual budget of £1,000 for each employee. 

 

What next? 

We’re by no means done. 

We want to capture more diversity data at the programme application stage beyond gender. Traditionally, we’ve held back on gathering this data from potential teams at the application stage, because we don’t want to invoke any bias in our review process and gathering personal sensitive data about individuals is a matter, which we want to do handle responsibly, so we’re designing processes that will make this easier in the future. 

More and more of our discussions with our portfolio also centre around why it matters who is on your cap table, whose wealth and power you’re increasing. And whilst all our ventures closely align with purpose-driven investors, who they reflect matters. From Atomico’s Angel Programme led by Sophie Bendz, to Blossom Capital’s newly launched Angel programme, to angel investor networks and syndicates such as ClearlySo, Community Growth Ventures and most recently Alma Angels, to angel investing schools as run by Andy Ayim, it’s encouraging to see more and more initiatives emerge getting more diverse people into investing and level the playing field for diverse founders seeking funding. We’re always keen to expand our investor network, so do get in touch. And if you want to find out more about our ventures’ performance and impact, read our 2019 Learning and Impact Report

 

Steps investors can take

  • Gather and share data. Actively gather diversity data about your portfolio and share your findings (always ensure to handle data responsibly)
  • Connect and amplify diverse voices. Connect with others to drive diversity and inclusion in the sector, there are great initiatives like Diversity VC who regularly publish research and run events on the VC side, and numerous communities helping under-represented founders access funding and more. 
  • Pay it forward. Contribute to programmes and offer support, mentoring or more to communities that boost under-represented founders, currently there are some great programmes underway, YSYS Foundersdoor and OneTech’s pre-accelerator to just name a few.
  • Be accountable. Be transparent about your efforts to increase diversity for your firm and track your progress. Assess D&I of teams throughout the investment process by including questions on diversity in your due diligence process.
  • Start small and do it right. It can be daunting to even think about collecting so much data, but you can start with gender diversity information and ensure you get data processing right and gradually include more metrics in your assessments. 

Helpful resources

Here’s a selection of some of our favourite resources and communities, check out our Airtable here for more. 

– If you’re a female angel or female-led syndicate, add yourself to Sifted and Femstreet’s list mapping them across Europe and subscribe to both newsletters for excellent insights.   

– If you’re a black founder looking for advice, funding or more, check out 10x10VC events founded by Andy Davis, with VCs from Impact X, JamJar, Downing and more. 

– Check out the Sifted list of Diversity Tech Initiatives in Europe

– Explore Atomico’s x Diversity VC’s Inclusion in Tech guide, a practical step-by-step guide to help you plan, deploy, monitor and improve a Diversity & Inclusion strategy for entrepreneurs. 

– Check out #MovingForward, who gather VC commitments to foster a diverse, inclusive, and harassment-free workplace.