Bobby Franklin

by & filed under Diversity, NVCA Blog, VentureForward.

For the second time in six weeks, the NVCA Board of Directors convened on Tuesday to discuss how the industry can and should address sexual harassment. Harassment of any kind has no place in the venture industry, and our board is focused on making sure they, as a group of leaders from our industry, and we, as the national trade association of the industry, help steer our community towards positive outcomes to address this issue.

Members of the NVCA board, NVCA staff and I have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and attention to the matter since news reports of sexual harassment involving venture investors first began to surface in June. Our main point of emphasis has been to speak with and learn from as many stakeholders as possible to collect all the information necessary to arrive at the best path forward for us as an organization and for our industry. As I have said throughout this process, our number one priority is to get this done right, not fast.

Central to this information collection effort was the workshop we convened two weeks ago at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. What became clear after my team and I had many one-on-one conversations with individuals in our industry was that we needed to convene these individuals for a group dialogue. The meeting in San Francisco brought together a group of 60 VC managing partners, HR professionals at VC firms, entrepreneurs, LPs, legal experts, and a few of the women who publicly shared their experiences with harassment. The constructive discussion included identifying the issues and reviewing recommended solutions.

This workshop and my conversations have helped inform our path forward. This framework, as approved by the NVCA Board of Directors on Tuesday by unanimous vote, is threefold:

Develop Industry Standard H.R. Policies and Best Practices for VC Firms and Startups to Adopt

In March, NVCA released sample HR policies for VC firms and companies to adopt to build inclusive cultures at their organizations. At the time, we knew these policies did not represent a comprehensive set of HR policies and would need to build on and iterate them. We have engaged a small group of legal, HR, and employment experts and VCs to update the sample HR policies to address harassment and develop a set of best practices for VC firms and companies to adopt, including addressing the important need for reporting capabilities.

Facilitate Education and Training for VC Firms and Startups

We’ve learned the important role education and training can play in combating harassment. As the industry trade body, we know NVCA is well positioned to facilitate these programs (many of which are offered by our Industry Partners and other groups) to our members and others in the industry. We are working to identify trainings on harassment, unconscious bias, and diversity and inclusion to equip VC firms and their portfolio companies with needed education.

Institutionalize NVCA’s Broader Diversity & Inclusion Efforts via a New Initiative Called VentureForward

One of the most important takeaways we’ve had these last several months is how closely interconnected diversity and inclusion is to addressing sexual harassment in venture. Since 2014, NVCA has made diversity and inclusion a central focus of the organization. We launched the NVCA Diversity Task Force to develop a clear and measurable path to increase opportunities for men and women of diverse backgrounds to thrive in venture capital and entrepreneurship. Since then, the important work of the Task Force has led to several accomplishments, including: the White House Demo Day Diversity Pledge; a partnership with Toigo Foundation; Building a More Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem report; the NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey; and NVCA Sample H.R. Policies.

Through our work, we have learned some lessons along the way. What we know is that to create a more diverse and inclusive industry, these efforts can’t be achieved through a task force alone. This needs to be a sustained and long-term effort. That is why as part of our path forward we are announcing the next chapter of NVCA’s diversity and inclusion efforts with the launch of VentureForward as an ongoing sustained program with two focuses:

  1. Expanding opportunities for men and women of all backgrounds to thrive in the venture ecosystem; and
  2. Ensuring everyone who works in this ecosystem has a welcoming professional culture and safe work environment.

Key priorities of VentureForward include:

  1. Providing education and training;
  2. Sharing best practices and policies;
  3. Creating a hub for information and resources;
  4. Connecting VCs with a broader talent pool for their firms and a broader pool of entrepreneurs seeking funding; and
  5. Conducting research on diversity and inclusion in the venture ecosystem.

We look forward to engaging with you on this initiative. Stay tuned for details as we roll this out over the coming months. And as always, please join us and our efforts to always improve this great industry!