For years, women, people of color, and allies in Silicon Valley have been working to diversify who receives venture capital funding. But that issue runs parallel to another: Who has the opportunity to invest in—and ultimately, profit from—successful startups.
Acrew Capital, the firm led by founding partner Theresia Gouw, is raising a new fund that will attempt to open the door to a more diverse universe of limited partners. Usually referred to as LPs, these are the investors who back the funds that, in turn, invest in startups. Acrew’s new Diversify Capital Fund will target LPs from underrepresented backgrounds and will invest in growth-stage businesses on the path to an IPO—the kinds of investments that are likely to build wealth for investors.
“I don’t think this opportunity generally exists,” says Gouw. “Think about the top growth funds in the Valley—do you know who their LPs are? Is there ever any talk about who they’re inviting to participate? The answer is typically something that’s very closely held.”
Lack of diversity on cap tables—in other words, among the people who hold equity in a startup—prevents women and people of color from sharing in the significant wealth built in Silicon Valley. In 2018, the equity-management tool Carta began studying who holds startup equity, finding that the vast majority was owned by white men. That study primarily looked at equity earned through founding companies and through employee stock options. Acrew is instead targeting equity among investors.
As women have launched more funds of their own in the past half-decade or so, their progress as investors has often been made in early stage funding. In those rounds, the check sizes are smaller, the risk is higher, and the potential for a financial return is farther off. Acrew is aiming to increase the representation of women on cap tables in later-stage rounds, when companies are about one to three years out from an IPO.
The fund’s founders expect its first investments—it has already seen term sheets from a half dozen startups—to be in sectors where Acrew has already invested, which include fintech and security.
Citing SEC regulations, Acrew’s investors declined to disclose the targeted size of the fund or an LP’s average check size. But the investors shared that about 25 LPs have so far signed on to the fund. The fund will be Acrew’s sole growth-stage fund, which Gouw says is a sign of the firm’s commitment to diversity as a core issue—not as a separate, smaller initiative apart from growth-stage investing. “There’s no core fund and diversity fund,” Gouw says.
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the former president of StubHub, is a founding venture partner of the fund. Singh Cassidy is also the founder of theBoardlist, which works to diversify corporate boards of directors. The new fund’s team plans to synchronize work to diversify boards with its work to diversify investors. When a startup receives a check from Acrew’s Diversify Capital Fund, it will also be able to tap into the diverse network of potential executives and board members who make up the fund’s LPs. “Our capital comes to you with a differentiation,” Singh Cassidy says. “It comes to you solving a problem.”
Acrew expects the LPs in this fund to be women and people color in Silicon Valley and outside of it, many of them angel investors, board members, or C-level executives who haven’t yet had an opportunity to invest at this level.
“I know how much of my own wealth creation has come through ownership,” says Singh Cassidy. “And I know how hard access to ownership opportunities is [to find].”
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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com