Operator Collective brings diversity and inclusion to enterprise investing – ProWellTech
When Mallun Yen he started Operator Collective last year, he wanted to build an investment company for people who had no voice in Silicon Valley. This meant connecting women and people of color with operators who were intimately involved in building companies from scratch, thus providing investment in the early stages.
He then brought Leyla Seka as a partner. Seka helped create AppExchange at Salesforce in a powerful market for companies built on the Salesforce platform or who have connected to the platform significantly to sell their offers directly to Salesforce customers. Through that role, he met many people in the startup world and saw many inequalities.
Yen, whose background spans eight years as vice president of Cisco and co-founder of Saastr with Jason Lemkin, wanted to build a different type of company that would connect these operators: women like her and Seka, who had walked to manage important business – with people who were generally not listened to in the corridors of VC companies.
The same operators tend to be under-represented in investment shops. Today the company is made up of 130 LP operators, 90% of whom are women and 40% black people (which includes Asians). One way the company can do this is by removing the strict purchasing requirements. LPs can contribute a minimum of $ 10,000, up to millions of dollars, depending on their means, and this makes a pool of LPs much more diverse.
While Seka admits that they are far from perfect, she says they are fighting the good fight. So far, the company has invested in 18 startups with a more diverse set of founders and executives than those found in most companies that invest in corporate startups. This means that 67% of their investments include black people (divided into 44% Asian, 17% Latinx and 6% black), 56% include a female founder, 56% have an immigrant founder and 33 % has a female CEO.
I sat down with Yen and Seka to discuss their thoughts on corporate investment. Although they have a much more inclusive philosophy than most, their general approach to corporate investment is not that different from what we have seen in previous surveys with corporate investors.
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