It’s strange trying to fund people who are going to compete with me, isn’t it? Well, I couldn’t be more excited to be doing just that.
Ok, the headline announces Screendoor, an over $ 50 million early stage collaboration between like-minded investors to support new VCs from underrepresented groups (basically people who don’t look like me). Alex Konrad / Forbes reported on the announcement and published some good details as well as our own blog post. This initiative is very important to me because we deliberately designed our fund (homebrew) so that it does not grow in partnership size and is not cross-generational. In a way, Screendoor is, alongside the companies we have supported directly, the best way to live our values beyond our company. Some additions to the links above that I think are worth highlighting or sharing.
Satya and I have been thinking about how we can add our weight in this area since we started homebrew, but to have the credibility to do this we had to start our own company first. We want future “homebrews” to be started by all kinds of people and believe that this would be the best way to add the mentoring capital commitments. It can’t be all about supportive tweets or “office hours” – write the damn check.
Besides having reached a point with homebrew where we felt we could expand Screendoor’s responsibilities, the events of the past few years have sparked our desire to work on economic inclusion. And to be honest, a large part of the venture industry is moving too slowly, gradually hiring new staff, or weakening the impact of its diversity statements through selfish content marketing efforts. I know this is an apple and oranges comparison, but it always makes me laugh when I hear my colleagues say “Diversity is important, but it takes time to implement” while watching my industry move fast new ways to make money (SPACs! crypto!).
Screendoor is 100% a commercial vehicle, not a philanthropic one, but we decided to do it “no fee / no carry” so that all profits flow back to the investors, not us middlemen. And we are all LPs (investors) in the fund itself, which means that we have skin in the game.
Working with other VCs to achieve this
It was important from the start to include some of our favorite other companies. Homebrew may have helped catalyze and structure Screendoor, but it’s bigger than us. It’s stronger because of the people involved and their relationships within our industry. It proves that companies that often compete in the marketplace can band together for a bigger purpose and mission. And it complements the lived experiences that Satya and I have with other men and women from different backgrounds, cultures, etc. to create a wider value proposition for the companies we will be supporting.
Make sure the capital we raised was additive
This is a little subtle, but meaningful to us. If the over $ 50 million that Screendoor has raised came from sources of capital already earmarked for underrepresented aspiring managers, we would just move it from one allocator to another and not add to the pie. In particular, this is one of the reasons we designed it as an economic rather than a philanthropic vehicle. The LPs who support us are all deeply committed to the venture ecosystem, but have delivery models that often make it difficult for them to invest in smaller, first-time funds. Why? It’s usually a matter of check size versus fund size. A manager first launching a $ 5 million to $ 50 million fund will get checks for $ 10 million, $ 25 million, and over $ 50 million from large institutional investors. They will also look for managers with track records, etc. Screendoor will hopefully help solve the chicken-and-egg problem: “You want to support managers with track records, but I have to raise money to get a track record! “And I believe that over time, many Screendoor managers will develop a direct relationship with our institutional LPs.
Honor others who do this work (and hopefully to work with them too)
I call it “Columbus’ing” – the tendency in technology for people who are new to rooms that are already inhabited to pronounce “look what I have discovered!”. as if they were pioneering something totally radical when others were already at it. We honor and appreciate everyone who deals with the diversity in technology. We want to work with them, learn from them, go to * their * rooms to talk about Screendoor. We’ll probably mess up a lot. We’ll be slow to respond to everyone as this starts (did I mention we’re hiring) but we’re 100% committed and hopefully we’ll make this an evergreen effort, not just a one-time fund.
I will try to add new questions / answers here as soon as I remember or you ask them. And please visit Screendoor for everything you need to know about applying for assistance from our group.