Venture capital and private equity funds are in an influential position to bring about change: the commitments and initiatives they champion ripple through the entire portfolio. A DEI strategy is key to both a more profitable portfolio and a more equitable world; organizations with diverse teams outperform their less diverse peers by up to 35%.  

In a recent webinar, we sat down with a panel of DEI experts with experience across VC and PE funds. Hilliary Turnipseed, Sr. Director of Talent at Kapor Capital; John Roussel, Founding Executive Director at Colorwave; Grant Rivas, Talent Ops at General Catalyst, and Nassir Criss, Principal at Sixty8 Capital shared their insights on how to champion DEI. 

We distilled their learnings into a list of actions you can take to drive DEI across the companies in your portfolio or network. 

1. Craft a DEI Commitment:

  • Publicly state the organization's commitment to DEI goals.
  • Establish an internal DEI council or team.
  • Develop clear metrics, set goals, and regularly monitor progress.

“There are going to be times where you fail, but if you're really committed to DEI and building a diverse organization, you will continue to use the data to get better.” - John Roussel, Founding Executive Director at Colorwave.

“What we've seen work is to, first and foremost, make that public commitment.” - Nassir Criss, Principal at Sixty8 Capital.

2. Get Buy-In from Leadership:

  • Engage with senior leadership, particularly the C-suite.
  • Cultivate discussions to make DEI a foundational priority.
  • Demonstrate the impact of executive buy-in on DEI success.

“Executive buy-in allows for a higher level of consistency and it allows initiatives to be more effective.” - John Roussel, Founding Executive Director at Colorwave.

3. Practice Accountability:

  • Hold your organization accountable for DEI initiatives.
  • Ensure capital allocation reflects the diversity of the world.
  • Present portfolio companies with a diverse group of candidates for leadership roles.

“We try to make sure we're holding ourselves accountable and allocating capital in a way that's reflective of the world that we're living in.” - Grant Rivas, Talent Ops at General Catalyst.

4. Establish an Advisory Program:

  • Establish in-house advisors for regular advisory sessions with founders.
  • Collaborate with portfolio companies to work through DEI challenges from the earliest stages.

“We are sitting down with companies every week or every other week to tackle a lot of these problems from the outset.” - Grant Rivas, Talent Ops at General Catalyst.

5. Build Strategic Partnerships:

  • Identify organizations that introduce companies to candidates from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Form partnerships to build a robust network for referrals.
  • Leverage executive recruiters recommended by partners. 

“There are tons of organizations – like [Colorwave] – that connect diverse talent with companies.” - John Roussel, Founding Executive Director at Colorwave.

6. Use Metrics to Improve:

  • Develop systems and metrics for tracking DEI progress.
  • Establish benchmarks and conduct quarterly reviews for portfolio companies.
  • Embrace failures as learning opportunities for continuous improvement.

“Getro has an internal dashboard that shows us what is working, what's not working, who's really clicking on the jobs. All of that allows us to get a sense of the impact of our efforts. And with that information at our fingertips, we can adapt accordingly.” - Hilliary Turnipseed, Sr. Director of Talent at Kapor Capital.

7. Follow the Full Lifecycle of Your Hires:

  • Advocate for collecting DEI data at a startup’s earliest stages.
  • Go beyond hiring data and capture metrics on retention and internal mobility to identify areas of improvement.
  • Implement surveys to gather qualitative data on workplace inclusivity.

“Sometimes companies might only focus on one or two sets of data, and I push companies to think about it from a full lifecycle standpoint because that's where you can really start integrating change.” - Hilliary Turnipseed, Sr. Director of Talent at Kapor Capital.

“We conduct diversity assessments to ensure we’re hitting our targets both on the VC side and on the portfolio side.”-  Nassir Criss, Principal at Sixty8 Capital.

8. Share Open Opportunities & Expand Your Network:

  • Use technology to market roles strategically and expand professional networks.
  • Actively promote open roles to DEI communities and organizations.
  • Share insights about VC job boards with individuals seeking roles.

“We used GetroConnect to build a strategic talent network that broadened our pipeline at every level from internship through advisor. I now have over 1000 profiles in the network and it has just been incredible at connecting talent directly with our portfolio companies and driving applications.” - Hilliary Turnipseed, Sr. Director of Talent at Kapor Capital.

“Getting our GetroJobs board in front of different communities is really powerful. I take a bunch of calls with folks who are hoping to break into the startup world and I plug GetroJobs. I say, ‘Hey, this is a little bit insider baseball, but you should go check out the job boards of these VCs.’ It’s a great way to find IC-level roles, and it might not be common knowledge to folks looking for that first job in the VC-backed startup world.”  - Grant Rivas, Talent Ops at General Catalyst.

9. Scale Your Impact:

  • Move away from ad hoc searches and find technology platforms that can help you find and make successful introductions at scale. 
  • Leverage tools like Getro to manage talent initiatives efficiently.

“Founders aren’t reliant on me to perform every match manually…I'm all about having everything in one place, so now I spend most of my time in Getro. It's definitely a tool that I leverage pretty much daily. The talent network and the analytics have been a real game changer for my workflow especially.”  - Hilliary Turnipseed, Sr. Director of Talent at Kapor Capital

Bettering Your Fund and the World Around You

As you work to improve DEI within your network at your fund and within your portfolio, remember that small steps can lead to significant impacts. Fostering an inclusive approach to fundraising, venture capital and private equity funds can play a pivotal role in building more diverse, equitable, and successful portfolio companies. 

Make the commitment, measure results, and leverage the right tools to drive positive change and create companies that reflect the world we live in. 

Interested in the full event? Add your email address below and we’ll share a recording