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Accelerating Board Diversity in Tech
Pam Kostka, CEO, All Raise

As of last year, two hundred Fortune 500 companies had greater than 40% board diversity – a four-fold increase compared to a decade ago. However, these numbers also indicate there’s still more work to do. All Raise, a startup nonprofit on a mission to amplify the voices of female founders and funders, is helping to lead the transformation. The organization has launched Board Xcelerate, a 90-day program that taps into All Raise’s diverse network of founders, investors and operators to add talented underrepresented executives to the boards of high-growth, private tech companies. In this episode, All Raise CEO Pam Kostka talks about the value of board-ready vs. board-proven, how greater board diversity can drive better business performance, inclusivity and belonging within tech companies, and how adding underrepresented groups can lead to wealth creation.

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Show Notes

Amanda Galton:

Welcome to the Future Fountain, a podcast series dedicated to conversations about the tech ecosystem, brought to you by Orrick and NYU Future Labs. Hi, I’m Amanda Galton, and today I’m thrilled to be talking with Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise, a startup non-profit on a mission to amplify the voices of female founders and funders, accelerate their success, and create a tech culture where women are leading, shaping, and funding the future and are recognized for doing so. Pam is a seasoned CEO with over 25 years of experience as a startup operator. Her specialties are defining go-to-market strategies and implementing operational processes to allow startups to effectively scale to successful exits. With her impressive background as a leader in tech, we look forward to hearing her viewpoint on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the tech community, and the importance All Raise is pursuing to diversifying the board room. Pam, thank you so much for joining us, and I look forward to you sharing your insight here on the Future Fountain.

Pam Kostka:

Thank you for having me.

Amanda:

Let’s kick it off. People often talk about life as a journey. How do you see your journey that landed you at All Raise, both in what drew you to All Raise and what keeps you at All Raise?

Pam:

Great question. You mentioned that I have 25 years of startup experience in the valley as part of the introduction, and that journey was from the product management function on up to the CEO chair. And I personally found that the higher I got in terms of title, the more I was confronting bias within the system that was much more noticeable the more senior I got. And so I was really looking for an opportunity to address the ceilings and the cliffs that I had encountered in my trajectory. And, when I met the team at All Raise, my overwhelming reaction was: “Where have you been all my life?” I was really looking for the sense of community and camaraderie and support, and the collective support that I felt in the interview process was something that was really meaningful to me. It was also just a very strong mission alignment. Our mission is to accelerate the success of female founders and funders. And I had my own experience with that, and I just really wanted to make a change to the tech ecosystem in which I had participated for a really long time. And, finally, I have a daughter; she’s 11 years old; she’s wonderful. I have no idea if she’ll go into tech, but tech is so pervasive that I felt really strongly that I could make a difference for her, for her peers, for this next generation that was coming up. That if I could change the tech ecosystem to be more equitable, to be more inclusive, to be more representative of the population, that that would serve her and her peers in no matter in what capacity she chooses to move forward. So those were all of the things that brought me here. What keeps me here is the impact that we’re having. And the mission still closely resonates with me personally, but the chance to interact with rising investors, rising entrepreneurs, and to see the impact that we can have and the impact that they are going to have on the future is really what keeps me getting up out of bed every day—to tackle a thorny problem that’s been around for a really long time.

Amanda:

You mentioned the sort of newer investors that have come into the fold. What advice do you have for founders as they’re navigating fundraising? And given that you have been in the fundraising world pre-All Raise, is there anything you’ve learned in terms of that work that you didn’t know previously?

Pam:

Sure. In terms of fundraising, it’s a hard journey. It’s a hard journey for anybody who’s raising venture capital even though the last couple of years have been probably the most prolific deployment of venture capital dollars out there. 2020 really saw a setback for women in particular. It was the third year of record venture capital deployment, and yet women did not see the benefit of that. Funding to female founders actually dropped back by up to three years in terms of the amount of ground that we lost. So there are real barriers and there are real obstacles that get towards bias in the system, what obstacles exist in the system, and these are particularly prevalent for women of color, who are very disadvantaged. And the percentages are less than a percentage point. They’re still closer to zero than they are to even a percentage point for the amount of funding going to women of color, black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs in particular. And so being at All Raise just brought that home more to me, because I sit with the data all the time to see what the issues are that we’re up against, and that women are up against, and the headwinds that have been created in 2020. Now, I guess what I see in where is the opportunity as we continue to move forward is that—and we have three pillars of change that we talk about, access, guidance, and support. And so access is the number one because that’s where lack of earned networks or overlapping networks have really kept women, and black and Latinx entrepreneurs in particular, outside of the venture capital industry, and precluded them from getting the funding that they actually want. And so we’re here to blow up that access, and All Raise is uniquely positioned given that we have a series of investors at our table as well as fellow founders to provide that access to capital. But it’s not just access to capital, it’s access to all kinds of networks that are important to somebody—to advisory networks, to talent networks—and really making sure that access is widely available to make sure that somebody has success. The second one is guidance that we talk about all the time, which is you really do need to know the rules of the game. And while we’re actively working to change the rules of the game at All Raise, we also recognize that there’s just expectations about how you pitch. For example, what the size of the market is. Venture capital is an asset class, and it has expectations for venture scale return, and that means you need to have a venture scale business. And so really understanding at every inflection point in the entrepreneurial journey how you need to change and build a great company, and what is going to be important to your fundraising process, and how you can actually do that, which is equally important to the access. And then the third one is it is just a lonely journey out there as a woman founder, and really making sure that you have a community. People at your back and by your side that are going through a similar process and can support you, not just emotionally support you but also support you with advice and give you that resilience that you need to keep going forward as an entrepreneur. [Those] are kind of the three things that stick out to me the most having sat at All Raise for this long.

Amanda:

I do know that, when I feel like I’m doing my job and working with entrepreneurs, it is part psychology and part legal, because there is a lot of that emotional journey and loneliness and letting those numbers and the daunting task of fundraising, which is daunting regardless of gender or race. Feeling that there is a community there is quite notable. You mentioned the concept of earned network. How do you distinguish between a network, an earned network, an advisory network? How do you see those different terminologies?

Pam:

Yeah, we do a lot of research into networking, and earned networks are the ones that just, through the connections that you have, you can continue to build on them over time. It’s earned because you’ve worked alongside this person, you’ve met this person in some other venue. And so what we’re really doing is trying to break apart these barriers that keep people isolated in their existing earned network. Right? So, “I went to school with these people”; “I worked with these people.” And so, if we can break open those networks, we know that there is going to be a benefit to doing so. All the research shows that there’s a lot of economic benefit and economic power to be unleashed when we actually break out beyond the people that we know into a diversity of perspective, a diversity of thought, a diversity of approach. We often talk about this as the new economics that are emerging, or the absolutely new economics that are coming out for how you can build a better product, how you can build better processes, how you can build better teams that are going to be economically more lucrative at the end of the day because of the diversity that is built into them, intentionally built into them. So we’re always constantly looking at how do we break down the edges of those networks and create these overlapping networks so that people can have more access to different perspectives…

Amanda:

…and create that value. Is there anything that has shocked you—maybe shocked is a little strong—but has surprised you as you enter pre-All Raise and, during in terms of being an entrepreneur yourself, of “I didn’t know that about this investor or that investor,” in terms of process really, that surprised you before you came into All Raise.

Pam:

I don’t know that there’s one thing – being an investor is an equally tough job, in all honesty. You only get to lay a couple of bets a year, and I think I have more empathy for the investor side of the equation here, which is, there’s only so many bets that they get to make in any given year. And really understanding this psychology and the mentality of what the investor is trying to think through can actually make you much better and much more effective in your pitch. It’s just knowing your audience. And so your audience when you’re fundraising is very different than the audience that you’re actually trying to serve with your product or your service. And so, coming to a recognition and realization of that, and the competitive landscape that you’re up against to get those, some people only make two bets a year. Some can make up to seven bets a year, but there’s not more than that. And so we started by saying being an entrepreneur and raising capital, regardless of gender, the deck is kind of stacked against you. The odds are against success there, and it’s because there is a pinch point. There’s more capital than ever that’s available. That’s a positive sign, and so hopefully we’re opening up that aperture and that funnel much more aggressively. But, I think from a process perspective, it’s just illuminating to me to really sit with the investor side of the equation and understand what their decision-making process needs to look like.

Amanda:

Yes, often talking with entrepreneurs, we can sort of say “it’s so easy for this investor, because they’ve already found the entrepreneur, they’ve found the great company.” But the journey that they take is equally challenging. And who is in that new capital stack that is exciting to you in terms of new investors or recent developments in the diverse investor tech landscape that is worth calling out on this podcast, and shining some light on the gains that they’re making and things that are developing? When I was launching out in terms of my legal career, it was sort of this narrow myopic. Like, money is raised on this street and by this group of people. And I think, at least from where I see it, it’s changing, but I would love to get your insight as well.

Pam:

Yes. I think that there’s disruption happening every day now in the venture capital industry itself, and there are people here who are breaking rules that weren’t really rules per se, so much as just accepted norms of practice, and now are cracking those norms of practice. So at the highest level I think, the institutional side has been the slowest to change. 64% of established firms still don’t have a single female partner on their teams. That’s a problem when it comes to attracting diverse talent and attracting diverse founders and making sure that you have access to the biggest and best opportunities. Now, 36% of the firms do have one or more, growing in several cases, investors at the table. But where we probably see the most opportunity is, decidedly, in the merging fund manager space and people who are taking new approaches to that. So, coming out of 2020, I think that there is a renewed energy and vigilance around how we can look at creating more diverse firms and firms that are focused on a diversity investment thesis. So, Mac over at Rare Breed Ventures is one of those, the team over at Concrete Rose Capital, the Community Fund—you see a lot of these funds operating at the pre-seed and the seed stage who are coming out with diverse investment theses and realizing there’s a gold rush mentality in venture that can happen which is these are largely underserved and untapped market opportunities. And they are taking a first maneuver advantage to go tap into those opportunities. So, I think that that’s one area that is exciting. There is a group of firms that have had a female-centric investment thesis, and I think that those are gaining momentum. So, Rethink Impact is one of the largest venture firms that’s out there that is focused on a female-centric investment thesis, and the impact that it can have, the social impact that it can have. They’ve just raised one of their largest funds. BBG out of Boston is another one. Female Founders Fund. These are repeat investors who have proven that there is gold to be had in the investments that they’re making with looking at female founders and some of the unique qualifications that they bring to the table and have been overlooked and underestimated for a long time. And there’s a third class that’s coming out that is emerging which is more the syndicate/collective type of approach that put operator collective in there, and lots of syndicates that are starting to happen more at the angel stage of taking operators, including a lot of female and underrepresented individuals, who are really world-class operators and have made money and enabling them to become investors. And so Operator Collective is doing that as an LP and then using that base to provide value added services to the investments that they make, which is now you have access to this amazing toolkit of an earned network, if you will, of very senior-class operators who can assist you as you have to figure out your go-to-market strategy, scale your product operations, think through growth strategies. Huge opportunity there. Then you have somebody on the other end accrues a DCF Fund and enabling a group of people, again, who couldn’t be or haven’t been traditionally been tapped as limited partners investing in a fund, giving them a chance to invest in a fund, and have opportunities. Their approach is a little bit different, not only wealth creation for you as an LP if you’ve not traditionally been considered an LP, but also the growth creation you can then get by joining those firms as a board member, as a senior operator within it. So, I think that there’s a lot of innovation where people are beginning to peel back the layers of the onion and look at where venture could go, and where are those untapped, undermined opportunities to go have some real wealth creation, which is exciting because we all know that that’s the flywheel that exists at the end of the day because when you create wealth, those individuals who benefit from it can then go fund the next generation of companies and entrepreneurs. And so, I think there’s a huge opportunity here going forward.

Amanda:

And there really is, from what I’ve seen, there really is that network of if you have good success on this, then you introduce that person to the next person. Then there’s that whole—that flywheel concept is real. And you mentioned the board room, and I know you recently—although COVID is a bit of a time warp so it’s not super in terms of—it’s been relatively recent through launch accelerating and bring this tool that All Raise has to be able to diversify board rooms. Do you guys see that as part of the flywheel, or as the wealth creation? Taking a step back, why launch that over another project?

Pam:

Yes, the board room. At the end of the day, we always look at the opportunity to do wealth creation at the end of the day. So, when we talk at All Raise, we’re talking about seeding a new flywheel where women and underrepresented individuals are featured prominently in the founding, funding, and scaling of businesses, and that includes as investors, and obviously as entrepreneurs. Then we also looked at the board room and senior operators. And the board room really matters because it is a seat of power that is often overlooked. And the influence that people can have by working closely together in a board environment is really powerful. And so if we can bring new perspectives, new faces to a board room, what is the impact that we can have? So, we think that there’s obviously a trickle-down impact on how a company might build itself, how it might look at pay equity structures, how it can create a more inclusive and belonging environment. There is the impact that it has in the board room itself, its dynamics in allowing what has been a traditionally white male enclave to work beside and alongside women and underrepresented individuals to experience what that is like in their perspective and how they may cross-pollinate and seed in other boards that they sit on, other companies that they’re affiliated with. And, honestly, boards create wealth. If you’re contributing significantly to a board, especially as an independent board member, you do get an equity position. And so there is a wealth creation vehicle in and of itself associated with joining a board and adding value. And so we think that there is a trifecta of benefit of putting more diversity into boards. And the fact of the matter is that there is a lot of education that has to happen in the industry right now around boards. The board process and board nomination process especially for pre-public companies is really a broken, bespoke, heavily-networked process. Kind of, “Who do you know?” We get back to those earned networks and those closed networks of opportunities. And what we thought was we have a network of amazing women and underrepresented individuals at the operator level. And if we can now find a programmatic way to bring that to the board room, and the next independent board position that’s hired, we can make that a more diverse board as a result, we will have tremendous impact. And it’s working.

Amanda:

On the working piece, when you launched it, was it an instant success in terms of companies reaching out to you, or was it more of the push of money of the network of All Raise saying, “Sign me up, I want to be a part of that.” Where was the push and the pull of launching the program?

Pam:

The launch was—it was a program like any other business that was launched. It was thoughtfully curated for about a year in beta and pilot mode, and we took a very systemic, programmatic approach to how we could fix the broken processes that exist today. And to say adding a board member is probably one of the most critical processes that you can have, but you should be able to do that within 90 days if it’s a thoughtful, focused approach. And the benefit of All Raise is always twofold. One is the leverage of our community. So, we rallied our community around the importance of this initiative and certainly, as a result of that, tapped into what I call the supply side of the venture community sitting on these boards and introducing portfolio companies that had an interest in diversifying their board room. The second thing is that we walked right into timing. Sometimes timing is everything, and we walked right into an environment where board diversity was becoming a topic of high interest. So, the California legislation requiring certain board representation certainly had a factor in it. But you also had Goldman Sachs leaning in and pushing on board diversity prior to an IPO. You had NASDAQ making some pronouncements once a company was public whether it could be delisted. And so, all of those factors together, I think, combined with the topic and the interest of diversity generally and again the importance of that board to have a broader cone of influence as a small group of individuals. And all of that united for also creating inbound interest. The metric by which I measure our success is as much how many placements we’re doing but what the experience is for the CEO and for the board. And we set ourselves the goal anytime we start a search to say, “We want to give you the quality of problem of making a really difficult choice at the end of showing you that we’re going to give you three to five options, and you’re going to have a really difficult time choosing which of those amazingly talented individuals you’re going to add to your board.” And that’s the experience. That is the trajectory that happens every time that we get the response back. It’s, “I met amazing people I didn’t know existed. Some of them are board-proven, some of them are board-ready, and I’m giving a first shot to somebody on the board.” But the talent—just the process of the interview process in creating that earned network exposure is pretty incredible, and one of the side benefits of the process itself. It’s not just the one person that you place, but the exposure that you give to women and underrepresented individuals within the board room, within the venture community across the operating teams of the companies that they interview with.

Amanda:

It’s interesting that you were talking about the focus on the CEO because in private companies, especially in the venture-backed private companies, it is often the CEO or the common stock seat where it is going to be the best opportunity and where they have a lot of control to put somebody in. So it is a very—versus an investor role or an investor seat in terms of the regular structures that we see is that it’s usually going to be that independent seat which is open. And I don’t have many meetings that I attend that don’t raise the question of, “We need to diversify. We need to expand our board. We need to find new people.” So, it is very much an active topic of conversation in companies that we work with. And we have seen a lot of push from investors out and beating the table for more diversity. But there often is the—I’m sure you’ve heard this question as well— “Well, I don’t know anybody. I’ll have to talk with somebody.” And so that trove of people and diverse representation is out there. So, it’s a really exciting program that you guys have launched. Have you learned anything, again from the perspective of pre-Xcelerate to now, about how that board process is? Have you adjusted any of the program because of what you had learned in the last year plus?

Pam:

Yes, one is just the speed with which we can operate. So, we challenged ourselves going in. Time was always of the essence, and the best proxy that a CEO has is the last executive search that they conducted to fill an important seat within their company. Board searches are very different than those types of searches. So, everybody comes in and says, “Ooh, this is going to be a six-month process, or nine-month process, and I’ve got to interview everybody. I’ve got to interview 20 people.” Board searches should be much more different. They should be very focused. You don’t want to spin up lots of people at the senior level that you’d then have to turn down. You want to be extremely focused in inviting three to five people at the end of the day through the interview process. And so, you can actually do this in 90 days. It’s possible to close a search in 90 days or less by being incredibly focused. Now, that focus does require you to have access to a very diverse pool of candidates that can bring different things to the table. So, that to us is also just the education process. The immediate knee-jerk reaction that we see from everyone—from board members, whether it’s one of those investor board members or the CEO—is, “I want a board-proven person. Somebody who’s been on a board already and successfully checked that box.” Of course, that’s a very narrow playing field based on who has historically been invited to the board room. And so, a lot of education around—there are a lot of people who are board-ready and board-exposed. They’ve been in a board room presenting as an operator, they’ve been in a non-profit board room, they’ve been some place before, and so you don’t necessarily have them serving on a board, but they bring in immense skillsets. And what you’re looking for in that independent director just depends on what your growth needs are for that company. You’re looking for somebody who can catapult you through the next phase of growth as you’re looking for that independent board member. And so, what we have to do a lot of education on is still board-exposed or board-ready versus board-proven, and not circling that same small group. Everybody can surface the same 10 names of people that they would love. Those people are booked. Those people are full up on their board seats in capacity. And so, it circles back again to really showcasing new talent that you weren’t aware of and making that a—presenting incredibly robust talent that makes that final decision a really difficult decision. So, this isn’t like, “Oh, I’m taking a token woman onto my board. Oh, I’m taking—.” This is not tokenizing. This is actually presenting difficult decisions and the elongation that we’ve seen in the process often comes at that decision-making point. “Oh my god, I didn’t expect that I have three or five amazing candidates. Which one am I going to choose that will add the most value to my company over the next three years?” And we’ve been surprised several times to see multiple offers made. They thought that they were going to go and hire one, and they actually end up hiring two individuals because they can’t make the decision. So, I think just that education process and what’s rewarding for us is to see just how quickly that education process can happen, and then how that word of mouth spreads as a result of that of individuals who’ve had a successful experience in the board room and with Board Xcelerate, our program, and come out the other side and refer their next CEO peer to the process.

Amanda:

I think you’ve mentioned education also is after being placed making these diverse set of candidates successful on the board, making sure that they are up to speed on other developments. And so, it’s not only the initial process, which is a revelation for some, but it’s like a revelation that, “Oh, wait a minute, this person is actually a great candidate after we place them.” And then they can contribute. And that has benefits too where you start gaining speed after the placement. So, taking a slightly different tact. I know both you and your family are heavily into sports of various endurances that I probably can’t even tap into in this stage of post-pandemic life. What kind of ties do you see in terms of your existing and past endurance sports—I think it was biking, right, you’re a big biker. What sort of—what do you bring to the table that you’re like, “Oh this is very much like a race or a challenge.” How do you bring that to the table, and what ties do you see?

Pam:

Yeah, well, in my youth, I probably did a little more adventure racing as well, like endurance sports that push you to your edge. I think what always attracted me to, whether it’s a century bike ride, or a marathon, or an adventure race, is where you live on your edges and how you learn to push yourself. And so just the core training part. Do you have the discipline to put the time and the investment in to get to push yourself physically, and what that also means emotionally. But psychologically when you’re doing these things, that’s really where it comes in. It’s where your body wants to quit, and your mind can take over and force your body to keep going. We often live within our comfort zones and push ourselves 5%, but we can actually push ourselves 10%, 15%, 50%. And so, it’s really, from the endurance sports, how can you learn the psychological war games of pushing beyond your endurance. And I think it has a lot of relevance to have with any entrepreneurial trajectory that you have, which is, there’s always going to be—we like to say that success as an entrepreneur, the story that is often told is one that looks like a straight line, and we all know that it is a very long, wriggling, winding road, recasting and recalibrating at every step of the way. And so, building in that resilient spirit, that ability to learn from something, to pick yourself up, to keep going when the impossible is there, and it’s true of All Raise too. We’re tackling a big thorny problem here that has been in the making for hundreds of years. And so, we expect and accept that there will be setbacks. 2020 was a setback for women in tech and women founders, for example. But how do you pick yourself up, learn from that, and keep moving forward, and making progress? Sometimes incremental progress because there’s plateauing in endurance sports, and sometimes you have a big breakthrough. And just having that mentality that it’s not always going to be the big breakthrough moments, and having that psychological resilience to keep standing up, despite the adversity that’s in front of you and keep going forward.

Amanda:

It kind of goes back to the loneliness concept of there are times, whether you’re walking into that first board meeting for that new investor, or you’re making that investment, or you’re receiving. There are these crux points where you wonder, “Can I do it,” or, “I am alone on this hill. I’m alone on this climb.” And so, there is the psychological endurance. And do you find that you can distinguish those words, “we are endurance athletes.” And when we do our own interviews and recruiting, we are looking for those qualities of grit, and what have you. And it is interesting where it comes out. Do you find that you, when you find the investor that you align with, or you find your entrepreneur that you align with, do you unpack that they also have that endurance athlete background or military background, or something where they have struggled and they have gotten through? Do you find your people in that respect?

Pam:

Absolutely. Distanced traveled. How hard is it for the distance traveled? And I think it’s really important that we look at distance traveled. Not just, “Oh, what have you accomplished?” It’s so easy for us to say that somebody was from Harvard or somebody was from Stanford. And I’m not taking away from those situations as a Harvard graduate myself. Those are tough rites of passage in their own respect. But it really is about the distance traveled that will tell you much more about an individual’s fitness, psychological fitness, emotional fitness for the grueling task of entrepreneurship than anything else. And so, I don’t think that there’s a signal. I think that’s where the industry has gotten it wrong is to focus on a signal. Or there are these clear signals that seem like those are the truisms that exist. There’s no one true, clear signal. There are multiple ways to prove that grit, that resilience that is going to see somebody through the hard stuff to get to that inflection point where it does start to look like a straight line of growth, but to navigate all those twists and turns that exist before you get to that straight line.

Amanda:

You’re right, in terms of it takes education in terms of looking for those signals. And we see it in companies that are in the de-SPAC or public offering process when they’re looking for officers who have done it, who have been the public company officer of choice—CFO, CCOO—and often it is an education of what they’re looking for and whether they can find it in somebody who is up-and-coming and highly capable. So, there is a lot of education going around to see those and explore that. And thinking through as lawyers, we’re always thinking about for our clients we like to look around the corner and see what’s next. And when we’re doing it right, we can help our clients do that. As CEO, what are you seeing when you are talking to your board and your members about what’s next for All Raise? What’s the hill that needs to be climbed?

Pam:

The hill that needs to be climbed is access, in all honesty. There are a lot of headwinds going from last year. We are still making tremendous progress, or at least steady progress, let’s say, on the venture side. We’ve moved the needle from when All Raise started from 9% of women are checkwriters in venture to 13%. That’s on our trajectory to get to 18% by 2028. That will begin to change the shape of conversations that are happening in the partner room, how investments are made, who is attracted to the firm. That will continue. But we still haven’t made enough progress, as an industry, on who gets the funding. That’s the hill that I think we have to climb. There is a lot of headwinds that we’re facing from last year, and a lot of tailwinds as well. Never has the topic of diversity, inclusivity, and belonging been more prominent in the board room, in the executive room, in the product room, in the venture room. And so, there is a lot of opportunity for us to capitalize in how can we begin to, building on what we said what we were just talking about, I think it takes curiosity to change the things that we feel we know. The muscles that we’ve used historically. It takes a lot of time and patience and investment to learn a new muscle. So, I used to do some triathlons, and when you’re—it’s called bricking—when you’re moving from one sport to the next, when you’re coming off the bike and going for the run, or coming out of the swim and getting on the bike. You’re now going to use a whole lot of muscles that you just haven’t used, and they’re not ready to engage in fire. And you just need to do some training, so approaching it with curiosity—with how can we look at our systemic biases that we hold that prevent us from seeing some of these opportunities. And what I think is unique about All Raise is that we have the ability to take powerful and influential people on the inside who are deeply passionate about making this change, and deeply committed to making this change, committed to the point where they think it’s their obligation to make this change, and rallying that collective impact to make that change is really where we’re focused in the next three to five years.

Amanda:

So, as you’re looking at the headwinds versus the tailwinds and looking for that optimism, when you emerge from the moments of loneliness and you’re, where do you find there’s a single source of the optimism where—because as we indicated numbers—I mean, the numbers can get to you and I get questioned on those numbers all the time, rightly so. But where do you sort of place that optimism as you look for changing the game for women entrepreneurs and tech and leaders and investors?

Pam:

We can’t get lost in the numbers, right? The numbers are a reflection of what has been. So what I focus on is what could be. So here we are at this seminal moment coming out of 2020 with a conversation perpetually changed to you can’t kind of put DEI in a corner. You can’t ignore it any longer. To ignore it is at your peril, actually, in that there’s an opportunity here to make success synonymous with inclusivity. And that’s where I get my hope and my optimism from is that there are people who are going to change the game. And we don’t have to focus on the entire industry. This is still early adopter years, if you will. And so, if we look at crossing the chasm and mainstream and lagger of adopters, we don’t need to get everybody right now. But we do have a core of people who are at the All Raise table, or at another table—it doesn’t have to be ours; we mentioned so many of them earlier. There’s so many different initiatives and organizations—Black BC, Latinx BC—who are focused on this problem, and that’s what gives me hope is that there are all these people with all these bright minds who are focused, and it’s just a problem of focus. It really is. Like being diverse, equitable, and inclusive doesn’t require anything but focus and intentionality and curiosity to open up the wealth that exists, that is waiting to be tapped, if we just do that. And so that’s really what gives me hope. Some of the signs that I have about that is we just finished a capital campaign, where the venture industry is not known for collaborating and getting together necessarily as a whole unit and doing something. And we didn’t get the whole venture industry, but we’ve got hundreds of firms united in both dollar contributions but also in commitment to action and engagement around our table and committed to making change moving forward and to having the hard conversations and difficult conversations. And the other thing is just every day we have the “win of the day” moment within the office where we just share what was something—where did we see the impact? Was there an investor who got a promotion today that we helped in some way, shape, or form? Is there a new fund that got a little bit closer to closing their fund or actually closed their fund? Is there a founder who got introductions to investors and closed her round of funding? What are those moments that we can focus on and be inspired by the change that is actually happening? And I believe that what we do today, we will see the rewards of that in the public market and the acquisitions market and the wealth creation that happens in another seven to ten years. And so today is the day, if there’s a note of optimism, today is the day to make the change. Today is the day where we are enacting change, and we’re going to see continue to ripple through the industry. And so if we’re sitting here 10 years from now having this conversation, we’ll look back and say “Remember, July 1, 2021, that we had this conversation, and we were talking about seeing exactly this change that we are now experiencing.”

Amanda:

Well, wonderful. This was definitely my win of the day. So thank you for that. And thank you for the insights. It’s been really fantastic to talk with you.

Pam:

Thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure.