Our One Year Anniversary
Last summer, Mercury became one of two US-based institutional VC firms to earn a Level II Certification from The Diversity VC Standard.
Mercury was specifically recognized for:
- Exceptional tracking and reporting of deal flow
- Exceptional support for professional staff and underrepresented founders
- Exceptional partnerships with diversity-focused organizations
Why We Pursued Certification
Venture funded businesses are responsible for outsized proportions of tech jobs, resources, and financial returns. However investment teams notoriously lack diversity: only 8% of investors are female and less than 1% are Black (Harvard Business Review, 2018). And a lack of diversity in check writers means female, black and brown entrepreneurs are overlooked. From an investment perspective it doesn’t make sense that we are only considering a small slice of the world’s best innovators.
As return focused investors, our job is to identify the highest potential investment opportunities. We can’t do our job without diversifying our perspectives, LP base, investment team, service providers, community partners, and co-investors. It’s not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.
What is The Diversity VC Standard
The Diversity VC Standard was developed by Diversity VC, a UK non-profit partnership promoting diversity in venture capital investing through education and job placement, and Diversio, the world’s leading D&I solution provider for investors. In addition to robust benchmarking data, the Standard provides VCs with the tools and recommended practices required to cultivate an environment where founders and colleagues from all backgrounds feel they belong and can succeed in the industry. After launching in September 2020 with an initial cohort of 15 funds across Europe and Canada, the Standard has now certified over 40 funds across Europe and North America. Level II status required an independent assessment by the Diversio team proving efforts in: Recruiting & HR, Internal Policy & Culture, Dealflow, and Portfolio Guidance.
We identified areas where our practices were strong, and where we still needed work. While we came into this process surefooted, each requirement launched our small team into deep discussions about our role in making the world a more equitable place; how can we do this best; and who are the thought-leaders inspiring us.
A Fit with Mercury’s Core Values
With our roots as the first venture capital firm to recognize the attractiveness of investing in middle America, Mercury values the overlooked entrepreneur. We continue to seek out the underrepresented including by region, demographics, gender, ethnicity, customer journey, and/or market opportunity. Mercury’s purpose-built approach to capitalizing on this opportunity yields exceptional outcomes and sets the benchmark for venture investing outside of the coasts.
Looking Back on the Past Year
Over the past few years, we have partnered with a variety of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) investment platforms including DivInc, IDVentures, and Urban Capital Network.
Mercury’s DEI ecosystem partners take a more specialized and targeted approach to underrepresented and underestimated founders and communities, helping provide curriculum, context, and capital to level the startup playing field. Like Mercury, all these organizations are committed to connecting entrepreneurs to the resources needed for a successful entrepreneurial journey and to build thriving startup ecosystems allowing entrepreneurs to win in Middle America.
To ensure our talent pools better reflect the diversity of the markets we serve, we have engaged an executive search firm to support us in this effort. And since investing in VC funds is a tool to build wealth, we have significantly diversified our Fund V LP base to help democratize access. Additionally we have opened our office space to co-locate with impact focused funds and accelerator programs. Lastly, we have enhanced our commitment to education, investing in future innovators and investors.
While we are proud of our work so far, we are excited to make improvements to ensure that the years to come are our best yet. The Diversity VC certification process prompted several new initiatives. Beginning this year, we are asking our portfolio companies to commit to annual board reporting of employment diversity and D&I initiatives. We have utilized an outside consulting firm to assess where our portfolio stands today and have also updated our own D&I policies to be more inclusive.
Participation in The Diversity VC Standard analysis yielded results that validated our commitment and efforts supporting inclusion holistically in our implemented policies and practices. We hope that this certification will help cultivate initiatives to push us forward, and attract change agents whose perspectives are celebrated at our table.
Our certification effort was led by Mercury’s DEI Board, Co-Chiefs Samantha Lewis and Jackie Pfister, Managing Director Health Butler, and Venture Advisor and Protégé Search CEO Rory Verrett, who worked with the Diversio team to build out our best practices.