Diversity in the venture capital industry has been a widely discussed topic in 2020 as many reports came out showing the industry fell short in hiring both women and ethnic minorities. To activate the change needed it is imperative that the composition of the people working in the industry changes so that they can empathize with and understand the issues underrepresented entrepreneurs go through which should, in the long run, lead to a broader deal flow and more opportunities. One venture capitalist who has been on both sides of the table for many years trying to activate such change is June Angelides MBE.
Angelides was raised in Lagos, Nigeria where she had an early introduction to entrepreneurship through her family. Her uncle Ben Murray Bruce founded Silverbird which was the first cinema in Nigeria and she recalls admiring “his ability to come up with an idea and make it happen” from her time spent with him on the construction sites. Whilst life in Nigeria was fantastic she moved to London at 17 to start her A levels at St Michaels Grammar School. Upon arriving in London she immediately noticed the obvious cultural differences “it was the first time I noticed my race and heard the term BAME” she says. After doing well in school and spending a gap year working at Barclays she attended University College London where she studied Economics. Towards the end of her degree, many of her peers were applying for jobs at investment banks and consulting firms but Angelides was very cognizant of the fact she did not want to work in the type of aggressive work culture she had heard about. Through a friend, she was connected to the media conglomerate Reuters where she landed a role on the syndicated loans news desk doing analytics and league table write ups for reporters.
Going Into Tech
In 2010, after a few years at Reuters Angelides was contacted by a recruiter about a role at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). Despite their reputation in the U.S. at this time SVB was a relatively unknown entity in the U.K. and applying for their banking license. Angelides decided to take the interview and to her surprise, the culture seemed very different from the banking culture she had previously been put off by. She recalls in her interview being told they wanted “happy people” and she was convinced it was the right opportunity for her. SVB proved to be a great introduction to entrepreneurship. Not only did she get to build relationships with some of London’s most successful startups today she was in a startup environment herself and watched SVB grow from a small team to one of London’s leading banks for startups.
A few years later Angelides had her first child and to work more flexible hours she decided to move into the early-stage banking team working with and recruiting startups who were much earlier along in their journey. She worked alongside organizations such as Wayra, Entrepreneur First, and Techstars in their formative years with the responsibility of mentoring and advising early-stage startups as well as looking for investments. Something which dawned on her relatively quickly was that whilst she understood business she failed to grasp some of the technical concepts. To learn more she decided to take up coding classes on her second maternity leave. Initially, she took them online but soon realized an in-person experience would be more valuable. However, whilst searching for courses it was obvious fitting anything around her schedule as a mother would be tough “nobody thought mums wanted to learn anything whilst on maternity leave, which was very upsetting” she recalls. Rather than complain about the situation she saw an opportunity to provide Mums with courses which suit their needs and Mums In Tech was born.
Startup Life And Venture Capital
Four months after coming up with the idea for Mums In Tech Angelides had set up her first pilot running a course at Thoughtworks and the Marks & Spencer’s office hosting 15 is mums and 15 babies teaching them about starting a business “it was the most magical thing I had ever done” she recalls and this made her realize she had found something she needed to devote more time to. In the following weeks, she spoke to her boss at SVB and rejected a promotion and pay rise to pursue Mums In Tech full time and soon after created an 8-week course which she would pitch to organizations to collaborate on. She spent the next 3 years working with several companies that included Microsoft, Ministry of Justice, SVB, Three, and Investec Bank. However, whilst things were going well she noticed that whilst many of these mothers were talented and came up with great ideas they didn’t fit the mold of what an entrepreneur should be which made accessing capital extremely difficult. She felt she had the skills to work as an investor to help people in this position who are overlooked given her background at both SVB and setting up Mums in Tech, however, “I didn’t see a single black woman who worked in the space” she says. This did not put her off but made her realize she needed to do thorough research and hatch a plan of how to break in but also fit in.
She utilized her network and was introduced to Check Warner, currently the co-founder of Ada Ventures, who was running Diversity VC at the time, a social enterprise helping to create a fairer and more diverse venture capital industry. Angelides was sure that she wanted to join a fund that “respected my journey and values as I want to do so much good” she says. She was then directed to look at Samos Investments. Looking at their portfolio she noticed a company they had invested in who she knew the founder of, Kuro Kids. After speaking to the founder who gave a glowing review, Angelides reached out to and spoke to Samos who were comfortable with her working 2-3 hours in the office a day at the time and the rest remotely given she had an 8-month-old child. She is now an investment manager at Samos and the team there has kept true to their word by investing in female and underrepresented founders even in the toughest times such as this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outside of work Angelides co-founded Female Founders Online to connect some of the best VCs with the hardest to reach founders. The speakers today include some of the most prominent people in the venture capital industry such as Danny Rimer from Index ventures, Mercedes Bent from Lightspeed and Antoine Nussenbaum, and Susan Lin from Felix Capital.
Whilst much has been said of the issues about diversity in venture capital in 2020 it is important that people who have authentic experience such as Angelides continue to push the industry in the right direction and have the platform and support to do so. I’m sure it will not be a straightforward journey but with people such as Angelides steering the ship I’m sure there will be significant progress in years to come.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can find more articles (click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released get in touch via Twitter @TommyASC91