Freada Kapor Klein is a force of nature. As co-founder of Kapor Capital and the Kapor Center, she applies her experience as a venture capitalist, social policy researcher, and philanthropist to her mission: making the tech ecosystem more diverse and inclusive.
In today's conversation, Freada shares her insights on increasing diversity across the world of venture capital as she recounts the evolution of Kapor Capital. "We did many things as 'firsts'," she recalls. These include accepting pitches via cold emails across all levels, posting open investor roles, and running a summer associate program to mentor new investors. Since 2011, the Kapor Capitol team has operated with a unique investment thesis: "One hundred percent of our investments have been gap-closing."
In 2019, Kapor Capital published its first Impact Report, which revealed that the firm's first 100+ investments beat top quartile financial returns — data which soundly debunked the notion that impact and profits can't go hand in hand.
"We tend to invest in the potential of people who look like us. We invest in people who are different than we are based on what they have already accomplished."
"What the industry needs to do is to start by holding up a mirror," she advises. "Discover a deeper understanding of our own biases. We tend to invest in the potential of people who look like us. We invest in people who are different than we are based on what they have already accomplished. That transfers over to the size of the checks we write, and when we write those checks."
Freada believes that building a diversified investment team is an important strategy for attracting underrepresented founders. Posting roles allows new talent to get access to these opportunities. As for funding, Kapor Capital reaches new entrepreneurs by inviting anyone to submit their pitch deck via the firm's website. As she puts it, "Requiring a warm intro is inherently biased. Isn't the idea that we want to hear from new founders? That's actually where disruption is going to come from. The more diverse the pool of entrepreneurs you can bring in, the greater the range of problems being solved."
Kapor Capital also bolsters equity in the portfolio through the commitment of founders. They are expected to set diversity goals appropriate to the size and stage of the company, and share their progress quarterly. The firm hosts community events designed for the continued education of founders across various platforms that reinforce diversity and inclusion. She asks her industry peers a rhetorical question: "Why is it you've been a venture firm for twenty years and have never had a Black team member or written a check to a Black founder? That's where you need to start."
Finally, Freada suggests that a practical place to start is connecting with firms dedicated to supporting underrepresented founders. Understand their stories, their theses, and portfolios, and partner with them to diversify your networks.