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On Diversity, Venture Capital and Oxbridge Elitism

Most people will find that this article does indeed add some rather intrinsic value to them or to their brand or business. As you may have guessed from the title, this blurb is not very bullish on sentimentality, and for good reason. It is, however, rather bullish on the notion of "dynamism", a word used by Buffet to describe the resiliance of markets to suffer the insufferable and still overcome the overarching obstacles of pessimism, when needed.

Questioning Oxbridge Elitism

We begin with a very concise position on cronyism in Britain and its effect on social outcomes. We need to ask the sort of questions that keep things real, questions like: is there also a societal revolution? Do we need one? The product of other people's hard earned labour is, what permeates our society, but in a centralised world, those who are able to capture a previous accumulation of privilage have firmed their own catchment area of success, which the rest of us have little chance of meeting.

Yet frankly, what we find ever increasingly is that the invisible hand becomes more of a manipulated hand under cronyism. The marginal productivity of labour plummits. Ideas become scarce. The process of innovation, the process of homogenisation becomes a less conscious endeavour.

How does this relate to dynamism you might be asking yourself? In an obtuse way. If you believe that in an age of democratised education, where ideas are increasingly open to all, that those who obtain these ideas from super elitist institutions are the only ones still in with a shout at becoming powerful moguls in our world, then it would be more sincere for such a person to simply come out and confess to an inherent and arrogant supremacism rather than convince us all that business or politique can only regenerate the ideas of those who have similar background to that particular person. That leads to cultural disenchantment and even worse disingenuous immitation.

Two factors come to mind here, one of which is the lack of funding there is going into black businesses, partly dependent on the funding structure of the largest funds/investment allocators in the country. Seeing these institutional problems as a means end to becoming more efficiently representative (if there is such a term) of social structures allows us to have confidence in meritocracy, a fundemental part of capitalism.

What also permeates in a very real way is not only the thinking behind where equity is allocated but who allocates it. It is important to grasp the basic concepts of proportional representation in industry, especially in a country where grassroots ideas are largely decentralised, the share of equity distribution has to be equal to all.

How is Venture Capital Helping?

That brings me to today's news, a friend and colleague of mine, Check Warner, is in the news today regarding her upcoming project at Diversity VC. Check and are focused on bringing a nuanced awareness to the somewhat questionable lack of female executives in the venture capital industry, but also to the noteable absense of prominent black and ethnic minorities (which, as another one of my VC friends, Michael Tefula would testify, is a wholly appropriate way to deal with the disparities that shift the playing field in favour of white and middle class men in the UK).

The problem I find with this scenario is that the kettle has and is still calling the pot black, both Check and Michael graduated from Cambridge and Oxford respectively and have significant privilage to waver about in their personal lives and careers alike. What needs to happen is the upper echelon of this particular industry needs to reflect societal demographics, just look at the example of Arlan Hamilton.

Arlan is a noteable African-American and female VC who recently gave a talk in London (which Check and Michael most probably attended) about her experiences in finding adequate sources of finance for the startups which she invests in, and I'm sure she would have been inundated with questions around the funding of UK small and medium-sized, black-owned businesses.

Why can't we have an Arlan Hamilton here in the UK? Venture Capital is still a strange one if you ask me. My other friend Andy Ayim, who gave the interview with Ms Hamilton, has written extensively on this topic and has a great piece on the struggles and adventures of inadequate recruitment policies in a world in which we all operate in.

Diversity in Venture Capital - Towards Better Hiring

One of the team at Talenytics, a Quality of Hire consultancy based in Glasgow, who I recently had the pleasure of speaking to at a Recruitment conference has sent me this lovely white paper produced by their team. The paper highlights some interesting perceived facts in relation to diversity, namely that 87.5% of respondents to their initial survey agreed that diversity was seen to have a direct influence on their organisation’s Quality of Hire.

It asks questions like: do we tend to drastically under utilise the value of Quality of Hire metrics in practise, when measuring candidate quality, new-hire attrition, candidate assessment scores and time-to-fill? And can these aspects be cruicial to the value of underlying business and operational KPIs?

We need to begin asking questions about how exactly data can used to improve percieved weaknesses in the UK corporate diversity and inclusion process, another important and decisive challenge.

Thanks for reading. Some food for thought for today.