Building the Future We Want: From Ambition to Action

Authored by Gabriela de Salles van der Linden (Kauffman Fellows Class 26)

I first heard about Kauffman Fellows back in 2017, when I was completing a cycle of nearly 10 years in venture capital in Brazil and starting to rethink and redesign my career. It was in this period that I became intentional about looking for experiences to maximize the impact I could have throughout my work that complimented my own personal set of skills, interests, and values. Four years later: here I am, blessed to be fulfilling a dream as part of the Class 26 family.

This October, I attended the second module of the Kauffman Fellows Program along with the rest of my amazing peers from Class 26, some of whom joined virtually due to COVID travel restrictions. Our first in-person meeting couldn’t have been held in a better place than 1440 Multiversity. A thoughtfully designed venue, with a forest of redwoods surrounding the campus and hosted by a friendly staff, my class had the space to be intentionally committed to learning and enjoying each other’s company. Mindfulness is embedded into the 1440 experience, whose name invites us to reflect on the priceless 1,440 minutes we each have in a day.

The subject of the second module was “Seeing, Picking and Winning the Deal.”I could share some takeaways from amazing speakers, about investment thesis, scouting, or portfolio construction, for example, with Clint Korver.

Among the four pillars of the Kauffman Fellows Framework: 1. Radical Self Belief and Conviction; 2. Unique investment Thesis; 3. Personal Brand; and, 4. Human Dynamic and Talent Environment. The last point resonated most to me at this time due to the structural change that we are facing in our industry.

I believe the VC industry is at an inflection point and we are experiencing a much-needed transformation. At its core, venture capital is a people business, and people in this sector are (thankfully!) changing.

As a group, they are becoming increasingly diverse, empathetic, and open to exploring opportunities in new sectors, regions, and theses. Consequently, the dynamics of capital allocation are evolving towards a more exciting, inclusive vision of society each day, which has the outsized potential to foster prosperity in more communities around the world.

Venture capital finally has the conditions to be just like the majestic redwood trees at 1440, which not only grow incredibly tall supported by fiercely strong roots but have the remarkable ability to regenerate themselves in order to survive.

Here’s the good news: the last four months since the beginning of KFP, and the unforgettable four days of Camp Kauffman have underscored for me that we are already living in a new era of more equitable, more empathetic VC.

Class 26 is made up of 57 investment professionals representing 19 countries, comprised of 42% women and 51% people of color, and more than 40% of Fellows in this class are at funds with AUM +U$200M (and that’s besides big funds like A16Z, Greycroft, and Kleiner Perkins). Each Fellow is diligently committed to becoming a better human being to better serve entrepreneurs all around the world.

We are mobilizing capital to address various unmet global needs and share the deep core belief that solving the world’s biggest problems will also drive the highest returns. By being part of such a diverse group — a true outlier compared to the industry overall — we are privileged to go beyond only sharing investment opportunities.

We each carry the responsibility of showing up fully to exchange learnings and best practices (successes and failures), to look at the world from outside our own personal perspective, to think outside the box, to abandon our comfort zones, and to be inspired by those in history who had the courage to not follow the standard rules, proving that there still is so much to be disrupted in our VC investment mindset. To quote my Class 26 colleague, Mac Conwell:

“For those who are investing differently, do not be afraid to break the rules.”

According to a Pitchbook publication from September 30, 2021, about 15.4% of GPs in the US are women. We still have a long way to go, but we should celebrate that this is almost three and a half percentage points higher than in 2019, all the while working towards a higher degree of gender parity. The difference between 12.0% then and 15.4%, now will have a ripple effect on the headline numbers around female-founded investments, magnifying the gains. Studies suggest that female founders tend to seek out female investors and that the chances of a female-founded company successfully securing financing can rise with a female investor in the room. There’s also evidence that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, female founders continue to outperform — exiting quicker and at higher valuations.

I also strongly believe in the value of racial equity in this industry. Another study from Citi highlights the economic cost of US racial inequality. If the gap on wages, housing credit, and education access were closed, it could add $4.8 trillion in income or +0.4% to GDP growth per year in the US alone. I believe in inclusion on the principle of humanity alone, but with such clear data to support being intentional about diversity and inclusion, there are no longer any excuses.

As with anything, it takes time to realize large-scale change. However, I am filled with hope that the diversity I see in my class will one day not be the exception, but the rule and will represent the standard of the industry in the years to come. With a more diverse set of decision-makers, I believe that the best for the venture capital industry is yet to come.

Final note: I am sharing my own personal perspective of diversity in VC, which carries its own particular lens, but I welcome you to follow other members of Class 26 to improve the spectrum of discussion and learn more about what we each stand for and believe in.

Gabriela de Salles van der Linden (Kauffman Fellows Class 26) is part of the founding team of Yaya Capital. She is responsible for the venture capital strategy and focuses on seed to Series B investments in digital health and medical devices startups. Gabriela has worked in venture since 2007. She was a partner at CRP Companhia de Participações, a pioneering VC firm in Brazil, founded in 1981. At CRP, Gabriela spearheaded early-stage investments and participated in more than 20 deals in Brazil. Afterward, she launched the Open Innovation Area of the D´Or Institute, a non-profit organization focused on research, education, and innovation in health, maintained by the largest hospital network in Latin America, Rede D´Or São Luiz.

Kauffman Fellows is the world’s premier venture education program with the largest and most connected network of VC investors.