Yvonne is a Founding Member and Principal at Impact X Capital, a UK based venture capital fund founded to invest in companies led by underrepresented entrepreneurs. We spoke to Yvonne about emerging businesses in the pandemic and increasing diversity in entrepreneurship and leadership.
Tell us about your career background and how you became an investor.
Yvonne started her career in investment banking - she recommended that "if you are able to get corporate experience, do it, you learn so much from it!" However, she found it wasn't the career for her and after working in strategy consulting for while, she took a trip to Ghana one summer and realised that she loved working with startups. So she came back and decided to pursue work in venture capital.
Tell us about Impact X Capital Partners and the motivation behind founding it.
She spent 4 years at Japanese investment bank, Mitsubishi, and found there was a huge disparity in funding given to female and Black founders compared to male/white entrepreneurs. So when she was approached to join Impact X, to her it was the "opportunity to bring about change" that she had been searching for.
How diverse is the industry currently - how much investment usually goes to BAME entrepreneurs?
"There is still a long way to go." Only 9% of investment decision makers are female which then has a knock on effect on investment given to female founders (female VC's are twice as likely to invest in female founders). So she emphasised that we need more diversity on the decision making level in order to create more diversity in founders receiving investment.
Crucially, less than 1% of all investment goes to Black founders and despite there being some great initiatives emerging, this funding actually declined in 2020. So real change needs to happen and it must come from a higher level.
Have you seen an increase in entrepreneurial ventures during the pandemic?
"Yes! The 2008 financial crash bred lots of innovation, e.g. Uber and Airbnb, so this pandemic has also created so much opportunity for innovation." She stated that it is really exciting seeing so many companies tap into that and we will soon see success stories starting to show.
Are early stage startup founders unattractive if they have FT jobs/side hustle? @oceanesimo
Not at all, everyone is different and despite media pressure to leave your job immediately, you need to be careful when you're going through such a large decision. "Do what works for you, follow your own path."
Did you always know what you wanted to be? @beatrizgonpinto
Not always no. She explained she didn't know about the VC industry at all but was comfortable taking those risks in her career. Always make sure that they are calculated risks though!
What's one piece of advice you would give to entrepreneurs seeking investment?
She advised that the main thing you should focus on is just building a great business! "People miss this whilst trying to raise money and investment, but if you focus on your products and customers then money will follow." The more traction you have, the more you have to prove so make sure your business is solid.
And she is always open to questions and introductions through her socials/LinkedIn!
Is there any particular entrepreneur or business you are especially excited about?
By Rotation of course! Circular fashion and e-commerce are huge trends that have emerged, so businesses like Sojo - a Deliveroo style app that enables you to quickly get your clothes altered/repaired, and Hutch - a platform to assist e-commerce fulfilment are particularly exciting.
How would you describe your personal style and has that changed through your careers?
Definitely - she used to wear skirt suits to look the part at work but now as a VC it's much more casual. Her style is 'simplistic femininity' and she values comfort the most!
If you could rent anyone's wardrobe - dead, alive or fiction, whose would it be?
"Kahlana Barfield Brown - her style is feminine, chic and comfortable."
If you could have dinner with any founder in the world, who would it be?
"Honestly, I would just love to get in the mind of Elon Musk!"