VC Firms Are Missing the Opportunity to Increase Investments in Women and Multicultural Founders

Business people at conference, coffee break.

The survey of a combination of nearly 200 U.S.-based VCs firms and diverse entrepreneurs who have successfully raised venture capital, suggests that the VC industry is not taking steps known to increase either their exposure to diverse entrepreneurs or the likelihood that they will invest in more women and multicultural founders.

“Today we released a report about VCs for VCs that offers investors ways to seize the opportunities women and multicultural-led companies present,” said Thomas Nides, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley. “This report is part of Morgan Stanley’s strategy to broaden access to capital for multicultural and female innovators, and spotlight the opportunities they represent.”

“Our research indicates that with a few subtle shifts in their approach, VCs can better position themselves to take advantage of these entrepreneurs and generate superior returns. I hope that this report will help to inspire more firms to re-evaluate their investment strategies so they can capitalize on these opportunities that have historically passed them by,” said Carla Harris, Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Multicultural Client Strategy Group Head.

Among the survey’s key findings

VCs have a reputation for investing in new, emerging and unfamiliar markets, better known as “expansion risk.” However, when they encounter diverse entrepreneurs, VCs are rigid in applying their definitions of fit and are unlikely to look at businesses led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs as opportunities to take calculated expansion risks, compared to other new investment areas.

  •     The top type of risk VCs are likely to take to maximize returns are calculated expansion risks, and on average, 20% of the companies in their portfolios represent an expansion or divergence from their typical investments; and
  •     88% of VCs view the lived experiences of underrepresented entrepreneurs as a competitive advantage in identifying problems to be solved and markets to be addressed.
  •     Yet, “not the right fit for me” and “market-related issues” are among the top reasons cited by women and multicultural founders for VCs not investing in their companies.

The lack of diversity among VC firms contributes to the funding gap.

  •     Among VCs who have hired more diverse fund managers, LPs, partners or board members, 71% report it as a “very effective” way to increase the diversity of companies and founders they invest in; and
  •     Nearly two-thirds of multicultural founders reported that they have had more success with diverse VC firms.
  •     Yet, only 11% of entrepreneurs say that they have interacted with VC firms that are diverse in terms of both gender and race.

The survey findings are featured in Beyond the VC Funding Gap, Morgan Stanley’s second annual investor survey and report examining the funding landscape for women and multicultural entrepreneurs and the investor attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the funding gap. The report offers a playbook with recommendations for VCs to help the industry take advantage of the trillion-dollar opportunity1 that the funding gap represents.

The online surveys of 58 VCs who are almost exclusively leads or co-investors with an average equity check size of $9.4 million; and 141 women or multicultural founders who have raised VC funding for at least one of their businesses was conducted on behalf of Morgan Stanley by Brunswick Group between August 19, 2019 and September 13, 2019 in the U.S.

The full report and survey results can be viewed online CLICK HERE.

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