According to a Deloitte study, only 4% of those working in the VC space are Black, and 5% are Latino or Hispanic.
2020 did see the launch of several new firms to address the lack of diversity amongst VCs. But for Salt Lake City-based University Growth Fund, there is still something missing from the conversation: students.
“We felt like there was a little less attention placed on cultivating talent at the very beginning. If you’re going to be in [venture capital], you really have to start early,” said Peter Harris, partner at the firm told Hypepotamus.
“There are so many students we think would be exceptional investors, but don’t for whatever reason view venture capital and entrepreneurship as an interesting space to start their career.” And Atlanta’s unique college landscape has caught the attention of the fund.
The education-based private equity fund announced it will open an office in Atlanta for its hybrid investment and internship program.
“At its most fundamental level, the idea is to give students as rich of an experiential education as possible. We try to flip the concept of an internship on its head. Instead of having 50 interns running around to get my coffee, I’m there to get their coffee.” Harris said that students are expected to be involved in deals and the due diligence process on their very first day.
“[The students] vote on every deal we do. Post-investment, they roll up their sleeves in many instances and help our portfolio companies with a wide range of value-add projects, similar to what a management consulting firm would offer.”
Currently, the fund works with students from eight schools in San Diego and Salt Lake City that haven’t traditionally been seen as feeder programs for young VC talent.
In Atlanta, they hope to attract talent from the Atlanta University Center, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Emory. Ally Bank serves as a main supporter of the fund and is helping to make the Atlanta office possible.
“We identified Atlanta as an ideal place. You have a lot of great universities, you have a lot of great Black entrepreneurs and talent and students,” said Harris. “It’s also the “Gateway to the Southeast from a deal flow perspective.”
Rakesh (Rocky) Nankani will move from San Diego to Atlanta this summer to get the fund’s physical office space up and running.
In 2020, UGF invested in Arizona-based eVisit and Texas-based delivery service Fetch Package.
The fund focuses on consumer tech, consumer products, and enterprise software, but has looked across multiple verticals. “It’s probably easier to talk about what we don’t do,” said Harris, noting that they stay away from seed rounds and startups in the pharmaceutical and medical device space.