The Changing Face of UK VC: Check Warner, cofounder of Diversity VC

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I think that report has generated a seismic wake up call, really. It has been really quite horrifying to people. I think it is the tip of the iceberg because, you know, women are 52 percent of the working population and if they are so madly underrepresented, then what does it say about all the other groups that are even more underrepresented?

I've had lots of conversations with VC partners in the last couple of months. I think what hasn't changed is that it's still, you know, average fund size is nine people, they still don't have HR departments, they still don't have loads of budget to do things. They still aren't hiring loads of people, so there I feel very empathetic to people who want to try and make change. But actually, there are lots of barriers to that.

There's a way to go on the depth and understanding still of the drivers of a lack of diversity and inclusion in the industry. I think the report was a good wake up call, but still was very narrow on the issue of gender. I know that that the British Business Bank wanted it to be much broader than that. So there are conversations happening, depth conversations could do better.

How do you kind of get across that this is isn't just the right thing to do and is actually good for business, diversified portfolios are good for business?

I kind of steer away from making that argument, to be honest, because I just don't think it really helps the conversation. Fearless Futures asked me: What if it suddenly it turned out not to be good for business? Would you just stop doing it? I've really heard that, and I think it really kind of reduces people's humanity to just be a business case.

I think the way that I try to articulate it to VCs, who are all about the opportunities, the outliers, investing in these companies that you need to be in that one company every three years, that is just going to make billions. So that's the piece that resonates with people, describing the idea of an entrepreneur that literally couldn't physically get into your office, that might be the one that's going to build the next billion dollar company gets to people. That clicks with them. So I say is your office accessible? Could someone who's in a wheelchair get into your office?

How do you see the rest of the year going? Do you see a young group of women now starting to kick down doors and start to get into the industry? And do you think in five years, we'll be having a very different conversation?

I see two things happening. One thing is that there are people kicking down doors but that progress is not really fast enough. The other thing I see is people creating a new industry, frankly, which looks not very much like the venture capital industry that we know. It has different fee structures, different people in it, different values, different beliefs, and they will fund different kinds of companies. I think that the real threat to the VC industry, as we know today is actually that they don't move quickly enough to really tackle this issue.

Fundamentally, VCs are about what the entrepreneur wants and if they want different style of capital, then the VCs that don't move quickly are going to miss out on the best opportunities. There is more capital coming into the industry. It's becoming more democratised, as people are starting to realise that it is not something that you need 10 years' investment banking to be able to do. And it's just amazing. It's also becoming much more transparent. Which is fantastic.

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