ABS Capital Set to Participate in HBCUvc Fellowship Program Aimed at Creating More Diversity in the Venture Investment Industry

Filed Under ABS Capital News

ABS Capital is excited to offer new internship opportunities to local HBCU students

Via the Baltimore Business Journal

Baltimore venture capital firm Squadra Ventures is taking steps to make good on its commitment to increase diversity within its investment team — and is bringing other local funders onboard to do the same.

Squadra recently added a set of undergraduate interns from two regional historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Morgan State University and Howard University, to its investment team. The company is working with HBCUvc, a nonprofit organization committed to helping more people of color gain exposure and experience in the venture investment industry, and has committed to bringing on two venture fellows for paid internships during the 2020-2021 school year. Furthermore, the company is encouraging 12 other funding firms to hire HBCU interns as well.

“I really believe the more diversity you have on your team, the more strength you have in being able to interact with a broader spectrum of entrepreneurs,” said Squadra’s managing partner, tech founder-turned-investor Guy Filippelli. “This is a serious step in that effort of diversifying for us.”

The effort follows on a recent promise by Filippelli to develop tangible strategies for improving diversity within local startup and investment spaces. Amid a resurgence of national conversations about the impacts of racial inequities following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Filippelli acknowledged some of Squadra’s own shortcomings when it comes to diversity, and committed to making a concerted effort to address them. Among the goals he laid out was that Squadra would hire more team members of color who could bring unique perspectives.

HBCUvc helps train and place undergraduate students from HBCUs into internships with venture capital firms in U.S. cities. In partnership with the nonprofit, Squadra has hired Saleah McFadden and Kiley Williams, both Black women, as venture fellows. Both will spend about 10 or 15 hours a week working with the VC during the academic year, Filippelli said.

Margaret Roth, director of portfolio operations, said Squadra is excited to offer new opportunities for local HBCU students. But the firm’s leaders also sought to create a larger impact by reaching out to their peers at other funding organizations near Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and encouraging them to participate in the effort. The goal is to place up to 20 interns from HBCUs with area firms, and create a cohort model that can be replicated in future years.

Here are the firms that have committed to taking on interns this year:

  • JMI Equity
  • Calvert Street Capital Partners
  • Maryland Momentum Fund
  • ABS Capital
  • Point Field Partners
  • Resolve Growth Partners
  • Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO)
  • Savano Capital Partners
  • Access Holdings
  • Citrine Angels
  • Next Gen Venture Partners
  • Motley Fool

The VC space has long had issues with racial equity, both on the funder and recipient sides of the industry. For years, data has shown less than 1% of all venture capital annually goes to companies run by Black founders. In addition, data compiled in 2018 by Richard Kerby, a partner at Equal Ventures, showed 81% of VC firms didn’t have a single Black investor. The goal of the HBCUvc cohort initiative is to help close those racial gaps by helping students of color gain relevant skills so they can secure jobs in the industry.

Mike Leffer, principal at Squadra, noted the company’s core leadership team is made up of funders who were formerly entrepreneurs and startup operators themselves. He said that experience has given them all a strong problem-solver’s mindset.

“When we find problems and gaps, we don’t just want to point them out. We want to find actionable steps we can take to make an impact,” Leffer said. “This is a really targeted, sustainable way we can help to level the playing field.”

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