Where’s the Diversity? Supporting This Core Value in Angel Investing

January 29, 2015

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Joining an angel investor group provides a host of benefits to members. Angels can share deal flow and due diligence with a group of people, and can talk about companies, the market, industries, and more with interesting people of varied backgrounds. The challenge for diverse angels, however, is that it can be difficult to find a group where they feel welcome. Women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community may find themselves feeling isolated at best, or unwelcome at worst, in many angel groups or at angel investor events.

Recently, a fellow angel went to an investor event. She was the only non-white person attending, and one of only three women amongst the 30-person group of angel investors. This was in New York City.

Last November, I attended the Angel Capital Association meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and there wasn’t a single woman on an agenda featuring more than a dozen presenters. The number of women in the room was much smaller than in the past, and there were virtually no people of color. 

What can be done?

To begin with, you must associate with people who share the core value that diversity is important. It isn’t just a “nice to have,” it’s essential. It is well documented that diverse teams are more successful.

There was a great article by Anthea Watson Strong titled, “It’s Not My Job to Fix Your Pipeline Problem,” that addresses this value. When I am in groups that don’t have diversity as a priority, then that is all I end up talking about. It bores me. I don’t want to talk about diversity, I want to talk about the companies and their business. When diversity is a core value, the participants can all focus on the work.

So, how can you find a welcoming group?

I remember looking at the websites for angel groups in my community and seeing page after page of white men. As Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” If an organization shows that it has a monoculture on its website, that is who they are. Move on.

Most angel groups are geographically based. If nothing in your area offers the diversity you need, though, consider a national group or program.

There are some angel groups that have predominantly women for members, but there are no ongoing angel groups specifically for people of color or LGBTQ. The following groups have diversity as a core value, and are welcoming to diverse angels:

Pipeline Fellowship: This program is single-handedly responsible for creating more women angels of color than any other group. The majority of the Black Enterprise list of 20 angel investors are either alumni or mentors associated with the program (including men). I am an alumna of the program and a big fan (Twitter: @pipelinefellows).

Investors’ Circle: Investors’ Circle is the largest social impact-focused angel group. This group has programming nationwide, diverse companies pitching at their events, and one of the most diverse audiences (Twitter: @InvestorsCircle).

Astia: This nationwide angel group strives for a membership that is evenly split between men and women. I’ve been a member since 2014. Astia has locations in New York City, San Francisco, and London, as well as pop up events. Astia holds frequent Venture Lunches that feature startups that have women as part of the leadership team (Twitter: @AstiaGlobal or @AstiaAngel).

Are you involved with any angel investment groups that are supporting diversity? Please share their information in the comments below.

Barbara Clarke is a member of the DailyWorth Connect Program. Read more about the program here. She is also an angel investor in DailyWorth. You can find a full list of Clarke's angel investments here. This article is not investment advice, nor is it a solicitation to buy or sell any shares.

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