Leyla Seka and Letty Ledbetter of BVI: We’re going to extend the appallingly low variety of blacks collaborating in enterprise capital

It’s a small world.  So after I had a current LinkedIn Dwell convo with Leah-McGowan Hare of Salesforce and Bevy’s cofounder Derek Andersen on to speak in regards to the firm’s efforts to recruit black buyers of their current $40M spherical, Leah’s story about attending the Black Enterprise Institute’s (BVI) two-week enterprise schooling program actually intrigued me.  A lot in order that after I checked out the BVI web site I observed that one of many cofounders was buddy of mine from her days at Salesforce – Leyla Seka.

The final time I had spoken with Leyla was about 18 months in the past after she left Salesforce and have become a companion in Operator Collective, a VC agency based by long-time tech government Mallun Yen with the purpose of broadening the pool of these collaborating in enterprise capital funding.  Actually 90% of those restricted companions (LPs) are girls, and greater than 40% of them are folks of shade.

I not too long ago caught up with Leyla about why she co-founded BVI, the targets set for coaching black buyers, and what the endgame was for this initiative.  And simply as I used to be setting this dialog up, I noticed a glowing submit from one other good buddy of mine, communications government Letty Ledbetter, who was sharing her experiences going by way of the latest BVI cohort whereas stating the position Leyla performed in her turning into part of the BVI household.  So I used to be glad to have her be part of the dialog and share her perspective going by way of this system.

Beneath is an edited transcript of a portion of our dialog.  Click on on the embedded SoundCloud participant to listen to the total dialog.

What’s the Black Enterprise Institute and the significance behind it

Brent Leary: What are you seeking to accomplish with the Black Ventures Institute?

Leyla Seka: So Operator Collective was cooking, and we had been seeing lots of exercise with feminine operators, very like myself, very like Letty, who hadn’t essentially been in enterprise or put their cash there. Principally as a result of it’s entry, proper. It’s actually about entry and understanding how to try this. And so, after I had began in enterprise, I mentioned to my companion Mallun, I used to be like, “I want I may go to a category for per week and be taught what’s a SPAC, and why do I care about data rights, and the way do I negotiate a time period sheet.” And all this stuff that, actually, isn’t that sophisticated when you be taught what it’s, it’s similar to another factor. However once you don’t know what it’s, it feels actually sophisticated. So, when George Floyd was murdered, and the pandemic, and this final yr, I simply couldn’t sit for one more minute and never do something.

So, I sit on the board of the engineering faculty at Cal Berkeley. I referred to as up the Dean and mentioned, “I do know we run a category on enterprise capital. Get me to the professors.” So, then I met with Toby Stuart who turned a professor of BVI, and he had this course. And I used to be like, “Okay, right here’s what I need to do. We’re going to take all of the white folks out and we’re going to place all Black folks in, apart from me and also you, and everybody within the course goes to be a Black operator.” After which we began speaking about it. It was costly, so we wanted to determine the best way to pay for it. Then I went to Salesforce, which I left. I labored at Salesforce 12 years. I had deep roots there. I went to the ventures staff. I attached with Jackson Cummings there.

Salesforce determined to sponsor it. After which I mentioned to Jackson, “I actually don’t need to create a program for Black operators that’s executed by two white folks. That’s not what we’re doing right here.” So he mentioned, “I bought it. We’re going to hook up with this group referred to as Black VC.” Enter Fred Groce and the Black VC staff. We spent all of final summer season engaged on this, and making an attempt to determine the best way to make this occur, and the best way to get it paid for, and what it could appear to be, and who would come. What we ended up creating is a two-week Zoom course that runs twice a yr. It’s a combine. And Letty can let you know this as a result of she went there, however it’s a mixture of content material and educational content material, in addition to networking, and assembly folks just like the CEO of Calendly, like Phaedra Ellis, all these folks that may blow your thoughts.

Since you’re like, “Oh my gosh, you’re the best individual I’ve ever met.” And listening to about how they did it and type of breaking that down. So, we ran a cohort by way of November, BVI One, and that far exceeded something I ever thought would occur. Then, we simply completed BVI Two a few weeks in the past and that exceeded my expectations but once more. And one of many main issues was, earlier than we began BVI, solely 75 Black folks had been writing checks in Enterprise, which is appalling, proper? I imply, it’s simply appallingly low of a quantity. So, the concept of this system was we’re going to graduate 100 new examine writers yearly. And whether or not they resolve to write down checks or not is their enterprise, however they are going to know the way, and in the event that they need to go into enterprise, they’ll, and the entry will probably be opened.

Brent Leary: So how did you choose the primary of us to enter these lessons?

Leyla Seka: We used our community, proper? I imply, it’s a community pushed group. So, we used our community. We additionally referred to as for purposes, they usually utilized to BVI and the Black VC of us. That staff actually runs that choice course of and runs by way of it. And now we have lots of people , so we have already got far more folks than we will get. After which, each cohort recommends of us for the following cohort. We’re actually making an attempt to construct a community. And a few actually attention-grabbing issues have occurred.

Going by way of the BVI program

Brent Leary: Letty, you’ve been in large tech enterprises for a very long time, beginning early. However how did you get entangled on this? What drew you to this?

Letty Ledbetter:  Leyla. I wrote in a submit that I met Leyla after I was at FinancialForce, which is Salesforce backed, and we labored on the Salesforce platform as nicely. So, we had been at a reception. I didn’t know who she was. After which came upon who she was, who she is, and what she’d executed for equal pay at Salesforce, and I used to be like, “This girl is on the ball.” And so I simply began following her, if you’ll, on social media and LinkedIn. I used to be nominated for a management program. It was funded by Salesforce Ventures. Leyla spoke there. Reconnected along with her. After which, a few years later, once more on LinkedIn, I noticed that she had left Salesforce and she or he was at Operator Collective.

I used to be like, “Hm, how do you do this?” Nonetheless, it hadn’t occurred to me. After which, it could have been in January or no matter after I heard in regards to the first cohort, and I pinged her. I lastly bought the nerve to ping her. “I don’t know when you bear in mind me, however how do I get entangled on this?” She pointed me to the hyperlink. I utilized. 

At Oracle, I labored with comms for lots of the acquisitions. I had a working familiarity with acquisitions, with pre IPO corporations, however I at all times was interested in how the checks really bought … how the sausage was made. And right here was a chance. And what I came upon after going by way of BVI is that I had been an investor.

A few years in the past, I had written a examine, invested in a enterprise for… It was a small enterprise. Lady owned enterprise. However that was, to me, it was extra like, “Oh, right here’s a buddy to assist out.” However now, after going by way of BVI, time period sheets, and cap tables, and the language, it’s sort of like a treasure chest. You discover it, you open it, and also you go, “Oh my God, there’s so many issues in right here. So many issues that we will do.” And it’s attention-grabbing, as a result of our cohorts, now we have met a few instances after we graduated simply to go over cap tables extra. We’re going to fulfill once more. A few us have gotten collectively and mentioned, “Hey, how can we begin writing checks? What can we do?” And I’ve additionally pinged Leyla. I mentioned, “So, may you inform me extra about this angel funding?” It’s been superb.

Clearing up misperceptions on enterprise capitalism

Brent Leary: So, Letty, what was one of many misperceptions that you simply may’ve come into this with, that you simply came upon, “Hmm, not what I assumed.”

Letty Ledbetter:   I assumed that you simply needed to be a finance individual to do that. And a part of the 2 week periods now we have, these founders panels, now we have visitor audio system that run the gamut. One of many case research, and I can’t bear in mind which one. I’m not even certain I’m allowed to say, however one of many case research featured somebody who was in communications and have become a founder. 

I assumed everybody needed to be an engineer or in finance. And there are such a lot of methods to take part, to get entry. And in order that was, once more… And I instructed Toby later. Toby is a professor. I mentioned, “That’s the place it sort of clicked for me that I may do that too.”

Creating Black Examine Writers

Brent Leary: So, Leyla, I believe I noticed one thing on the BVI web site that claims the target is to create 300 of us which have the flexibility to write down checks throughout the subsequent a number of years. So, discuss the way you see… There’s this story that Letty has associated. Is {that a} story that’s sort of the standard story persons are beginning to inform as they undergo this course of?

Leyla Seka: Sure. Sure. It very a lot is like, “I can do that.” And I had the identical awakening, fairly frankly, whereas I used to be at Salesforce, the place I used to be like, “Wait a second, I can make investments my cash in these corporations. Like, why am I…” It’s an awakening. It’s additionally… We’re group pushed folks. That’s how people work. And once you meet a group of individuals which might be fascinated with one thing you’re fascinated with, everybody begins working collectively, issues occur.

The cohort one staff of Black Enterprise Institute, they meet one Saturday a month they usually do angel. They take heed to angel pitches they usually angel make investments collectively. A girl’s community was born out of that. The women of BVI, we meet pretty commonly and discuss subjects from board readiness as to whether or to not make investments on this.

There’s a number of deal movement sharing. There’s a extremely lively Slack channel that Black VC helps handle for BVI. Wealthy folks get wealthy by placing their cash to work, not by placing it within the financial institution. Proper? And for these of us that didn’t see that each one our lives, how are we alleged to know that? So, as soon as we break that open and we’re like, “Oh, I could make this cash, earn more money by simply… Wow. Why wouldn’t I need to?” It’s all a little bit “gambly” so everybody needs to be cautious, I’ll say that, however data is energy.

Company participation

Brent Leary: Leyla, perhaps you can discuss getting the funding in from corporations like Salesforce Ventures. How essential is it to have these of us be part of this course of?

Leyla Seka: It’s actually essential. It’s actually essential. Initially, that is costly and we don’t need to create only one extra boundary. Like, “Oh, right here’s BVI. Give me $80,000 after which you’ll be able to come.” That’s not the purpose. The purpose was to take limitations down, not create new ones. Proper? And in addition, look, an organization like Salesforce, large corporations supporting Black VC, Google helps them rather a lot. These corporations are exhibiting a dedication to altering what’s taking place right here by placing their cash the place their mouth is and supporting us.

And Salesforce has been a terrific companion of BVI. They actually have. They’ve proven up time and time once more. And it’s Salesforce Ventures. However I additionally assume that all of us must assault the issue collectively. I discovered this with equal pay. If it’s simply me and my girlfriend screaming, nothing’s going to occur. Proper? It was when Marc Benioff mentioned one thing that everybody was like, “Whoosh.” Proper? So all of us started working collectively. We want all people within the battle.

Bringing range to the advisory board

Brent Leary: One of many issues that you simply mentioned a couple of yr and a half in the past was… It was sort of shocking to me, as a result of all of the expertise that you simply dropped at the desk, you mentioned you weren’t actually getting requested to be part of advisory boards for a few of these tech corporations. You had been getting requested to be advisory boards for issues that weren’t tech associated, let’s put it like that. Does this additionally play a chunk in altering the look, the make-up of advisory boards and decision-makers at tech corporations?

Leyla Seka: Sure. Sure. Look, folks develop up within the neighborhood, they appear to be the very same folks. God bless lots of the white execs I grew up with, they usually’re all good folks, and I like them, however they solely grew up with different white folks. They didn’t develop up in Berkeley, California the place I did. They weren’t bused round. They didn’t have all several types of folks of their programs. They solely knew white folks. So, as a way to break by way of that, it’s a must to shift the way in which folks contemplate advisory roles, and the way they give thought to sharing fairness of their firm, and doing nontraditional issues to make their cap desk look extra attention-grabbing than simply the identical guys who labored at PayPal and are making all the cash. I imply, God bless, however all of us want a reduce right here.

I believe that it takes lots of work to vary stuff like this. I’ve mentioned this earlier than, it’s a must to type of do Herculean issues, additional large issues. BVI was a giant factor. I used to be alleged to not work final summer season, and my household was like, “All you probably did was work on BVI. You had been nowhere. You didn’t go fishing. You didn’t depart the home.” My mom in regulation was like, “Who’s going to cost…” I used to be yelling on the cellphone on a regular basis. However it was a giant factor, and listening to what Letty mentioned, are you kidding me, Brent? That’s like the most effective factor I’ve ever heard. Exterior of my youngsters and my marriage, listening to tales like Letty’s and what’s occurring with BVI, that’s the factor I’m probably the most pleased with.

Changing into a examine author

Brent Leary: And Letty, when you look out two, three, 4, 5 years from now, what do you need to accomplish with what you’ve discovered with BVI?

Letty Ledbetter:  I’m seeking to be LP or GP someplace, however on the similar time, for me, it’s about group and ensuring that my thesis is tight and I’m centered on the place I need to channel my cash. Do I need to go into Huge VC? I don’t know. However I’m studying. I’m extra outfitted now than I used to be a yr in the past.

That is a part of the One-on-One Interview collection with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it is an audio or video interview, click on on the embedded participant above, or subscribe by way of iTunes or by way of Stitcher.