I first met Lo Toney seven years ago when we teamed up to develop GV's early commitments to diversify venture capital. Part of our mission was to find ways to increase investments in startups founded by women and people of color, not just at GV but across venture capital. We spent a lot of time together thinking about ways to change the game.
At the time, Lo was fine-tuning his thesis that diversity is an unrealized source of differentiation in venture capital that creates a powerful network effect. He felt this was especially critical at the seed stage, as it leads to a more differentiated deal flow.
After some experimentation, he developed a plan to back seed stage funds led by women and people of color.
"If I had said at any other place of employment that I wanted to take an idea, get paid to work on it internally so I could figure out a plan to scale it up, and then get their support as my first investor — I would've been laughed back to my desk," he muses. Instead, the GV leadership team encouraged him to take the initiative and run with it. "Entrepreneurial spirit runs deep at Alphabet," he says.
Lo incubated his idea at GV over a period of eighteen months, and spun out Plexo Capital in 2018. The name Plexo, he notes, "is Portuguese, for an intricate vascular network. We like to think that this platform we've created allows everyone to win."
"We're not an impact investor per se, but we really like it when our investments have the ability to make an impact."
In the early days of the fund, Lo says that some in the venture industry didn't immediately understand (or believe in) what he was building. "I remember I saw a lot of head-scratching going on when I explained what we were trying to do. A lot of head-scratching around our focus on GPs who are women and people of color."
With Plexo, Lo has created a platform where different players in the industry can come together. In addition to Alphabet and GV, Plexo's limited partners include Intel Capital and the Ford Foundation. It has backed more than a dozen companies, including co-investments with GV on Blavity and Nearby.
"We're not an impact investor per se, but we really like it when our investments have the ability to make an impact," Lo says. "The lens that we try to look through is: what are those companies that are doing things to narrow some of these gaps? I think there's the ability to make money, and have this residual of something good that happens on the back end."
Lo continues to stay plugged into GV's equity, diversity and inclusion efforts. He recently joined our EDI partner Candice Morgan and CEO David Krane at an event with fund managers and LPs on how to create a more diverse ecosystem in VC, following last summer's BLM protests. We look forward to continuing to partner in inspiring a much more inclusive industry in the years to come.