There is no higher bar in society than the admissions committees at Stanford and Stanford Business School.

So how does Victoria Fram -- who has leapt over these hurdles -- pick the companies and entrepreneurs in which her venture capital firm invests? Her most successful investments are in companies led by CEOs who embrace challenges to their thinking.

Here's a quick summary of her career journey. In a June 26th interview Fram said that she is from Colorado. Her older brother attended Stanford. She applied there but was all set to attend Georgetown's foreign service school when she was admitted to Stanford.

She joyfully accepted the offer and went on to earn a BA in International Relations with a minor in Mandarin from Stanford. After graduation, she designed and implemented projects focused on international development and conflict resolution in China, the Netherlands, and East Africa.

While doing that, she realized that the people she was trying to help were too dependent on handouts from NGOs and that they would be better off if they could change their mindset to generating their own capital by building profitable businesses.

To do that, she decided to learn how the capital markets worked -- re-potting herself as an Investment Associate at Metropolitan, a global private equity real estate fund-of-funds, where she got a front-row seat to what happens to private equity when the capital markets collapsed in 2008.

She returned to Stanford for an MBA and a Certificate in Public Management and in 2012 joined Ross Baird, founder of Village Capital, "a venture capital firm that invests in overlooked entrepreneurs - namely bright people who are not from the west or east coasts, women and minorities who are not getting the investment and funding they deserve from traditional VCs."

At the time, Baird -- whose forthcoming September 2017 book is called "The Innovation Blind Spot" -- had established Village Capital as its own startup, after developing the idea as a means of conducting due diligence on all the potential investments he was evaluating on behalf of a family office.

Fram came on board to help with due diligence and has created a process in which Village Capital boosts the entrepreneurial skills of startup CEOs in industries where there are major social problems -- such as health care and energy -- in exchange for which the entrepreneurs help Village Capital identify and evaluate investment opportunities.

Having run this process 60 times, Fram found that it's best to create cohorts of entrepreneurs -- here's a more in=depth discussion of why Village Capital uses this approach -- with specific industry expertise and that Village Capital has the best results when it invests in coachable entrepreneurs.

As she said, "I am reading your book Disciplined Growth Strategies and one thing that really resonated for me was the idea that the most successful CEOs have intellectual humility -- which we call coachability. This means they are eager to invite challenges to their thinking so they can better position their companies to grow."

More formally, Fram has established a process for evaluating opportunities based on many variables. These include, "team, the problem to be solved and the vision for solving it, the company's value proposition, its product, the market, the business model, how it will scale, and exit [scenarios.]"

1DocWay, which "builds telepsychiatry networks for hospitals to help them expand reach and create new revenue streams" is an example of a successful investment -- both in financial and social benefit terms.

Fram explained how Village Capital got involved with 1DocWay. "1DocWay uses video chat to connect rural patients with psychiatrists who have a few spare hours. Our peer group concluded that this company was the best on how it would change the world and other metrics. We started working on whether to invest in late 2014 and made a convertible preferred investment in March 2015. In November 2015, Genoa, a behavioral health specialty pharmacy, acquired 1DocWay. We earned an attractive return and [the merger] has accelerated 1DocWays' growth -- it is now in 250 clinics," Fram explained.

Village Capital has big ambitions. "We want to become much more significant and operate on a much larger scale. We think we can grow from an $18 million fund to a $50 million to $100 million fund backed by institutional investors targeting overlooked founders and sectors."

Can Village Capital pull off what looks to me like a revolutionary approach to doing well by doing good? We'll see.

Published on: Jun 27, 2017