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The New Fund Shaking Up the ‘Clubby World of Venture Capital’

December 13, 2019, 1:04 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon face the U.K.’s election results, Ivanka Trump holds a summit on paid leave, and a new fund debuts with women making up 90% of its limited partners. Have a wonderful weekend. 

EVERYONE'S TALKING

- Operator, operator. A fund whose limited partners are 90% women, 40% people of color, and 77% new to tech investment. Those are the eye-popping stats behind the Operator Collective, a new fund launched Wednesday at Fortune’s MPW Next Gen Summit by Mallun Yen, its founder and general partner, and Leyla Seka, the former Salesforce exec who’s now an LP and investing partner.

The fund's name reflects the background of many of its LPs; they’re some of Silicon Valley’s top “operators.” The COOs of startups Waymo, Stripe, and Cloudflare, the CTOs of Lime and Gap, and the CMO of Zoom are among the group.

Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram has the full scoop on Operator Collective here. What’s especially notable about the fund is that so many of its LPs, despite stellar credentials, had never been asked to invest before.

“[Yen] has taken a group of highly successful, mostly women, who are not necessarily CEOs and who have not been invited into the somewhat clubby world of venture capital,” Dan Scheinman, a long-time angel investor and an advisor to the Operator Collective, told Michal.

The size of the fund is small—$45 million, though it’s not yet closed—especially compared to some of the giant funds that are now so prevalent in Silicon Valley. The small size reflects the small checks the fund has accepted—an intentional move.

“We have a sliding scale that allows different levels of investment,” says Seka. “We have people in the fund at $10,000 and some at more than $1 million. We’re not just raising a fund, we’re all going to be the next generation of investors.”

Yen says they didn’t set out to build a traditional VC firm. “We wanted to turn the model on its head.”

And considering the appalling underrepresentation of women and people of color at every level venture capital, the industry is long overdue for this kind of shake-up.

Claire Zillman
@clairezillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Election results. The overwhelming victory for Boris Johnson's Conservatives in the U.K.'s election yesterday came with some other surprises. Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her seat to Amy Callaghan in the Scottish National Party. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says her party's victories show that she has "a mandate to offer Scotland the choice of an alternative future" to Brexit. Guardian 

- Choice on childcare? The White House held a summit led by Ivanka Trump on paid leave and childcare yesterday. "We have a historic chance to pass paid family leave and childcare reform so that every American family has the freedom to embrace the dignity of work and the joy of raising a family," Ivanka said in her remarks; President Trump also spoke about the issue. The Trump administration didn't announce support for any particular policies at the event. CNN  

- A suspect endorsement. Young Turks host Cenk Uygur is running for the California Congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill. He just earned the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders—despite Uygur's history of making sexist comments. In 2013, he ranked women on how likely men would be to let them perform oral sex, and in 2016 he defended the Harvard men's soccer team for ranking the "sexual appeal" of female students. Uygur still defends some of those comments and says he should not face criticism for having "frank conversations about sex" on his show. Some activist groups are calling on Sanders to withdraw his endorsement. LA Times  

- Shame, startups. The percentages of board seats for public companies held by women has been making slow and steady progress, up to 26% of directorships on the S&P 500. Private companies–especially startups—are much, much worse, according to new research. Among 200 U.S. companies that have raised the most venture capital dollars, women held just slightly more than 7% of board seats; 60% of those companies had all-male boards. Harvard Business Review

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Safra Catz will remain the sole CEO of Oracle after the death of co-CEO Mark Hurd. Anna Bakst is out as CEO and brand president of Kate Spade

MORE FROM MPW NEXT GEN

- Visa to fundraise. Raising startup funding in the U.S. is even harder if you're an immigrant to the country, said Purva Gupta, co-founder and CEO of retail tech company Lily AI. "If you don’t know if the CEO is going to be in the U.S. it’s a lot harder to get backing from early stage investors," Gupta said when sharing her experience. Fortune 

- Top tips. Want a corporate board seat? Board directors at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit offered their best tips, from starting with nonprofit boards to how to make the ask. Fortune

- OG GCs. As tech companies face growing regulatory scrutiny, the general counsel is a more crucial position than ever. GCs from Checkr, Anchorage, and more companies reflected on their changing roles. Fortune 

- Staying silent. Consumers want brands to be authentic. That means that sometimes, companies have to refrain from weighing in on cultural issues, despite the growing willingness of brands to engage with those hot-button topics. "There are topics where it just doesn't make sense for a brand to participate," says Uber's Jasmine Taylor. Fortune

- Let it out. Crying at work can be a "cleansing release," says Jotaka Eaddy, chief strategy officer at Promise. Women should feel it's OK to embrace vulnerability at work, panelists said at Next Gen. Fortune

ON MY RADAR

This is not our shame’: Five survivors of Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse on trauma, justice, and sisterhood Glamour

The hidden financial toll of having a miscarriage Washington Post

I called out Harvey Weinstein and the internet went wild. Now what? Glamour 

QUOTE

"Can you imagine if all the toddlers in the world were raised by 20-year-old men?"

-Pymetrics CEO Frida Polli at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit on the state of artificial intelligence—and its potential for bias