In early 2012, my HBS Alumni Angels colleagues and I launched the Venture Capital Access Program (VCAP), an initiative to help women and minority-led businesses to raise capital from the Harvard alumni angel community. This is a partnership between HBS Alumni Angels of Greater NY (HBSAANY) and the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC), the trade association for investment managers focused on the “emerging domestic market” (i.e., the America that is not just white men.)
I was inspired by the Harvard Business School U.S. Competitiveness Project, which challenged the HBS alumni community to address America’s declining competitiveness. A friend called it HBS’s response to Occupy Wall Street: an attempt to address America’s growing social divide.
In the first full year of operation, VCAP attracted 159 applicants. 34 went through VCAP committee screening; 17 went to a HBSAANY pitch night; 6 attended the annual NAIC convention, and 3 received funding (Mirror Digital,Cyber IQ, and Bownce) from HBSAANY and/or other sources.
Since then, we continue to get a steady flow of interesting companies led by women & minorities. We continue to think keeping our doors open to non-traditional founders is a highly advantageous investment origination strategy for our members. For that reason, on May 5 in New York, HBSAANY is going to co-host our first-ever pitch night with the Harvard Business School African-American Alumni Association. Details here. As usual, we’re investing in companies without regard to the university affiliation of the companies’ leadership.
Following the first completed year of VCAP, NAIC conducted a review of the pilot program to determine how to best maximize its efforts and those of its partners.
The NAIC is now planning to re-launch the VCAP in Summer of 2014, through their subsidiary, The Marathon Foundation. Women and minority entrepreneurs can begin submitting their Gust profile free of charge for VCAP consideration via www.themarathonfdn.org website beginning May 2014.
Going forward, VCAP will primarily focus on 25-35 of the most investment-ready early-stage women and minority owned companies (the “VCAP Fellows”). VCAP will leverage The Marathon Foundation’s angel investment partners’ network in the United States and in some cases internationally. Several key partners include HBSAANY, New York Angels, and others to be announced.
VCAP Fellows will also receive coaching and mentoring from TMF partners to include NAIC, New America Alliance, and the Asian American Investment Managers (AAIM). VCAP Fellows will also have an opportunity to meet the portfolio companies of NAIC member firms for potential deal discussions. Lastly, the most investment-ready VCAP Fellows will also be introduced to early stage VCs (e.g., ff Venture Capital) for investment consideration.
Entrepreneurs who are not initially identified as a VCAP Fellow will work with one of several TMF partners to assist with further developing their business model, management team feedback, product review, and identifying additional talent. The expectation is that after a period of time, these entrepreneurs will be ready to become a VCAP Fellow. TMF partners include NYC Incubators, Main St Advisors, and others to be announced soon.
TMF will launch 5 VCAP Regional Centers over the next 12 -15 months in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. By leveraging partner groups in each of these geographic locations, TMF is confident that it can accelerate and foster a stronger innovation ecosystem.
TMF is currently in discussion with several partners that can assist both VCAP Fellows and non-VCAP fellows with free or significantly reduced services to include legal, marketing, and potential customer identification/introductions.
If you’d like to learn more or partner with the NAIC/TMF, contact Vernon Lee, Chairman/President, The Marathon Foundation, 202-559-5296, vernon(@)brightwoodllc.com, themarathonfdn.org .