A new executive education course for the venture capital industry, aimed at getting more under-represented groups into the sector, launches today, with a mission to find the investment professionals who will shape Europe’s next generation of tech unicorns.
The UK’s tech sector has a recognised shortage of talent and the venture capital funds that invest capital in early-stage companies are largely white, male and privileged.
According to Diversity.VC in 2019, just 30% of those working in venture capital were women. The British Business Bank found in 2019 that less than 1p of every £1 of venture capital spent in the UK went to all-female founding teams.
On BAME representation, the tech sector performs even worse. According to Atomico’s respected State of European Tech report, just 0.9% of founders in Europe are black. Nor does the wider IT sector look much better. The Chartered Institute for IT records in 2019 that there were 268,000 black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) IT specialists in the UK, accounting for 18% of IT workers, a number that has increased by 2% over the past five years from 16% in 2015).
To address the shortage of formal training for careers in VC, London Business School and top European seed investor LocalGlobe have devised two programmes designed to provide formal business education for roles across the venture capital sector.
Called the Newton Venture Program, the courses cover the full spectrum of investment roles in the venture ecosystem, from VC investors to Limited Partners, angel investors, accelerators, and tech transfer officers. The aim of the programmes is to upskill the venture capital sector, while broadening the routes through which people can join the industry.
In a bid to make the business of investing in startups more representative, cohorts will target a gender split of 50/50, with at least 50% coming from BAME backgrounds. The digital programme is aimed at those wishing to get a foothold in the venture capital sector, while an on-campus programme is aimed at mid-career professionals.
The programme will give cohorts direct access to experts from top-performing global VC firms (such as a16z, Benchmark, USV, and others) and experienced entrepreneurs and their founding teams. Leading academic authorities on the VC industry — for example Luisa Alemany, Julian Birkinshaw, Gary Dushnitsky and Florin Vasvari — will teach key concepts, lead case-study discussions, and share their latest research insights with participants.
Practising investors and ecosystem experts will mentor the cohorts on subjects including how to source and win deals, venture financial and legals, fund management and how to support portfolio companies. Students will also be able to take part in industry roundtables, local city meetups and become part of the Newton Alumni network.
The on-campus programme, with opening and closing weeks at London Business School, is aimed at those with five to 15 years of overall work experience. It will include participants who are already investors as well as those with strong operational backgrounds looking to become investors.
The syllabus will include time spent at sponsoring VC firms, experience with top-tier venture capital investors and limited partners, work with tech transfer offices, accelerator offices and other partners and sponsors. Each participant will benefit from one-to-one mentoring and complete deep-dive modules covering specific industries and technologies, from fintech to AI.
There will be two cohorts a year, of up to 60 students, with the first online programme set to start in April 2021. The first on-campus cohort will start in October 2021.
Lisa Shu, Executive director, Newton Venture Program said, “To find the next generation of world-leading tech businesses, investors need to be more representative of our society. Despite many fantastic initiatives introduced by VC firms to improve the diversity of voices within teams, this industry is still predominantly white and male.
“The Newton Venture Program is a chance to train the next generation of investing professionals and open up venture capital investing to a wider, more representative range of voices and experiences.”
Luisa Alemany, Associate Professor of Management Practice and Academic Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London Business School commented, “The UK has world-class universities, but a mixed record in terms of commercialising scientific discoveries. The Newton Venture Program will be the first programme of its kind to bring technology transfer officers together to learn with investors, as we seek to find better ways of developing the UK’s world- leading scientific research and innovation.”
Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at London Business School said, “The UK’s tech sector has been punching above its weight for some time now, with great success in creating startups and scaleups. However the venture capital industry on which it depends has had, until now, no formal training or entry routes.
“This is an opportunity to put in place courses that both upskill the wider industry, while also encouraging people who might not have considered a career in VC to think again about this area of the investment sector.”
Akash Bajwa, Analyst at Cass Entrepreneurship Fund added, “Junior investors really need insights into how best they can develop traits and qualities to become a career VC, eventually a partner.
“There are many ways to go about this and for those starting out, it would be very helpful to understand how general partners think about nurturing junior talent for the partner track.”