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Venture capital is calling out racism. But can it put its money where its mouth is?



Major venture capital firms are condemning racism following George Floyd’s death, with the likes of Accel and Benchmark donating to various civil-rights causes and others like First Round or Kleiner Perkins voicing their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We can, and will, do better,” Kleiner Perkins’ statement read. “In order for society to operate with a higher ethical code and sustain change, it requires all of us to change.”

It’s no secret the venture capital community is far from the most colorful crayon box. While many VCs have voiced support for diversity and called for more inclusivity in their portfolios and in their investing teams, the industry remains far from representative. As systemic racism comes to the fore following the death of Floyd, the pressure is only stronger for investors to put the money where their mouths are.

But here lies the challenge for venture capital firms: The ongoing coronavirus could be a step back for diversity in the industry. In the middle of the pandemic, investors have turned much of their focus to the existing portfolio companies or investments they already know well—doubling down on their existing network—which could leave new, underrepresented founders by the wayside.

It’s also a concern whether diversity will take a step back in the realm of new fund managers. While limited partners are largely committed to funding their current commitments, in the next year or further out, LPs could focus on large existing funds—not only hurting founders of diverse ethnicities, but also those of different genders and geographies.

The private coronavirus investor: KKR has been the most active private equity firm since the coronavirus roiled global markets, according to Bloomberg. KKR has deployed about $12.7 billion around the world since the beginning of March, moving fast even before the market hit its all-time lows to avoid its mistakes from the 2008 financial crisis. By dollar volume, Silver Lake comes in second with $5.9 billion in deals during the same period. Among KKR’s notable deals: KKR’s infrastructure team acquired waste management business Viridor for roughly £4.2 billion ($5.2 billion) while KKR acquired the Wella and Clairol beauty brands from Coty in a $4.3 billion tie-up. Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda

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