The venture capital world skews heavily white and male. For founders who don't fall into those categories, that's traditionally been a big problem when it comes to getting funding.

Now one organization is taking steps to help. All Raise, a group of venture capitalists working for increased diversity in their industry, is launching a database enabling entrepreneurs to more easily find investors from diverse backgrounds. Called the Founders for Change Diverse Investors List, it allows founders to search for VCs by investment stage, sector, and background. All the investors on the list identify as women, underrepresented people of color, or LGBTQ. The list is the result of a partnership between All Raise and Crunchbase, along with NFX (via its tool Signal) and VCWiz, both of which help founders find investors appropriate to their companies.

Currently, only 9 percent of investing partners at U.S. venture capital firms with more than $25 million under management are women, and only 1 percent are underrepresented people of color, according to All Raise. Even after #MeToo and a rush by venture capitalists to hire women investors, 74 percent of U.S. venture capital firms have no women investors, and 95 percent do not have any investors who are underrepresented people of color.

In March, All Raise launched Founders for Change, an initiative that grew to include nearly 1,000 founders from companies of all sizes who declared they would consider VC firms' diversity when choosing one as an investment partner. A survey of women entrepreneurs, conducted jointly by Inc. and Fast Company, found that 38 percent of female founders seek out female investors. 

Finding investors who can satisfy the desire for diversity, however, has been a cumbersome process. Founders can rely on their networks, but they also have to spend a lot of time scrolling through the 'About Us' pages of venture capital websites. All Raise's list remedies that issue with more than 400 angel and venture investors searchable across three categories: women, underrepresented people of color, and LGBTQ.

All Raise says members of its Founders for Change initiative are seeking diverse investors partly because it's easier to build a diverse company from the very beginning than it is to change a company after it has become homogeneous and more established. There are other dynamics at work as well: In the survey conducted by Inc. and Fast Company, 62 percent of women who were seeking funding said they experienced bias during the fundraising process. Pitching female investors could prevent that problem.

Further, 20 percent of the founders surveyed said they thought that they'd be taken more seriously by other women, 28 percent said female investors better understand their target market, and 24 percent said they were interested in helping women on the other side of the table. "I didn't seek out just women--but I wanted to support female investors," says Mary Fox, co-founder and CEO of career coaching site Marlow. "It's insane how few women are in this space."

Other women believe that it's simply more efficient to pitch other women. If a firm is all male and has never invested in a woman entrepreneur, "don't waste your time, because you're not going to convince them that you're going to get the first investment," says Ellevest co-founder Sallie Krawcheck, who has raised about $45 million for her company.

Having one woman, underrepresented person of color, or LGBTQ person at a venture capital firm doesn't necessarily mean that firm will make more investments in underrepresented entrepreneurs. A single partner rarely has that much power. A list of the top firms investing in women entrepreneurs, compiled by PitchBook, had a heavy concentration of funds that were founded or co-founded by women. Many tended to be on the small side. All Raise says that women who start their own funds account for the majority of the growth of female decision-makers in the industry. To get more women into venture capital, it seems, sometimes VCs need to become entrepreneurs.

Published on: Oct 30, 2018