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Tips for Underrepresented Fund Managers

5 Success Tips for Underrepresented Fund Managers

While the world may be more progressive than ever before, opportunities in life are still affected by factors like race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Access and representation are things Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano SUPERCHARGED® Initiative strongly advocates for. With education, empowerment, entrepreneurship, and equity as our core pillars, we continue to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Our founders, Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano, recently had the opportunity to chat with First Close Partners. This is a venture capital firm that does amazing work in empowering underrepresented fund managers by helping them raise their first round of capital.

As an underrepresented fund manager, you’re not starting from the same place as everyone else. You don’t always have the privilege or access as your white counterparts. To be something different, you have to do something differently, because there are always ways to develop yourself and achieve success.

Kwanza, José and First Close Partners discussed some common problems underrepresented fund managers face and how they can excel in the face of adversity.

5 Success Tips for Underrepresented Fund Managers

1. Understand that your purpose is bigger

As a fund manager, your success means the success of others too. Keeping in mind that your actions influence the lives of others is a pretty good motivator. As an underrepresented fund manager, you have the ability to help those who have been denied opportunities because of their circumstances. As Kwanza says, "Even though you are making waves, you need to know that the waves you are making are part of a bigger, broader ocean and it's an ocean of opportunity." Become the person you needed.

2. Have something to offer

What is your story? What do you have to offer? As José says, “Performance is the product.” What you have to offer LPs could be the determining factor between closing and not closing. You are selling a strategy; you’re selling a team. That performance is everything. As an underrepresented person, this means working even harder to be taken seriously. José attests to this, saying, “In our communities, you have to be better than the average white male.”

3. Determine your fund manager track record

Being a successful fund manager requires a good track record. If you’re still trying to get your first close, you have to get creative with gaining your credibility. It’s beneficial if you’ve invested in the past. If not, try gaining your attributions from CEOs, entrepreneurs, previous business partners, etc. They act as your references for eligibility. It’s important to hang in there and have grit. An LP may not invest in your current fund but may invest in the next one. Perseverance is key!

4. Have discernment

As absurd as it may sound, investing in underrepresented fund managers seems to have become a ‘popular’ thing or “flavor of the moment”. As a result, many LPs are not sincere in wanting to build a good, long-term relationship, but rather focused on what makes them look good short-term. Kwanza cautions underrepresented fund managers to have discernment because, “not all money is good money." When applying discernment you have to think about the future. When you get involved with the wrong people who don’t have the intention to develop long-term relationships,  you’re in an insecure position. You’re ultimately going to have to make up for the funding if they decide to pull it. Which brings us to the next point...

5. Do your research and know your value

As an underrepresented fund manager, you’re in a more vulnerable position because LPs may utilize an even higher level of scrutiny before deciding whether or not to provide you with funding. Even though you're being scrutinized, remember you are also doing the selecting. It's a two-way street. Be sure to research LPs as well because you need to be very selective with whom you choose to form business relationships. You want to do business with people you align with, not just from a professional perspective, but from the perspective of who they are as people too. What’s their track record? Who are they investing in? What are their beliefs and values? Understanding this is more than transactional, it's foundational to setting you up for long-term mutually beneficial success. Remember that you are also adding value.

It’s important to see POC thriving in the white-dominated investment spaces because it is a step in a more equitable direction. So continue to put in the hard work, persevere, and align with people with the right intentions!

We’re rooting for you!


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The Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano Initiative (Jones•Feliciano) is a high-impact philanthropic grantmaking and investment organization that aims to power possibilities for humanity and its future through Education, Entrepreneurship, Equity, and Empowerment.
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