In 2019, Dominic Lau, a partner at Ripple Ventures, a Toronto-based VC firm, was on the lookout for ways to assist startup founders and VCs from underrepresented groups. His answer was the RippleX Fellowship Program, aimed toward teaching and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students focused on entrepreneurship or breaking into the VC industry. To that end, there needs to be 50% gender diversity and a minimum of fifty% BIPOC in each cohort.
Since its founding, this system has evolved while staying true to its mission of serving underrepresented students. For instance, it recently finetuned its admissions process to make the system more equitable. And last 12 months, Ripple X began a separate fund for startups launched by students, in addition to other founders who aren’t in this system. “DEI is actually in our DNA,” says Nazuk Thakkar, program manager, who can be an associate at Ripple Ventures.
A Two-Track Cohort
Open to undergraduate and graduate students in North America, the RippleX Fellowship program runs thrice a 12 months through the school semester with two tracks—one focused on entrepreneurship, the opposite on becoming a VC. The distant program, open to 25 students in each cohort, includes biweekly discussions, workshops with experts, and hands-on projects. For would-be founders, topics include such subjects as product-market fit and the fundamentals of term sheets. Those that need to be VCs find out about the way to evaluate a startup and the way to break into the industry, amongst other matters.
There’s also a free public course open to anyone, including individuals who aren’t students or are positioned outside of North America.
A Latest Fund
In 2022, the fellowship launched the Fellow Fund, a separate fund which invests $25,000 to $50,0000 in some student startups, depending on the stage of the corporate. It’s also open to first-time and underrepresented founders who aren’t in this system. Fifty percent of investments are allocated to founders who discover with underrepresented groups.
Thus far, the fund has made two investments in startups launched by entrepreneurs who took the general public course: Artemis, which is developing an information modeling tool for business, and Waive the Wait, which has a platform that helps doctors with each day tasks, aimed toward reducing burnout.
Finetuning the Application Process
Over the past 12 months, this system also has refined the method for reviewing applicants. For instance, a four-person review team, all alums, is comprised of only people of color, with 50% gender diversity. As well as, reviewers don’t take a look at schools or GPAs. And so they ensure every applicant is screened by each team member at a distinct step in the method.
With a complete of over 1,000 students within the 13 cohorts offered up to now, there’s an 80% ethnic diversity rate and 50% gender diversity, in accordance with Thakkar. This system also has helped underserved founders raise around $50 million in VC funding and placed 50 students from underserved backgrounds into VC roles, she says.
Thakkar attended a cohort in 2021 while she was a student at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, determined to interrupt into enterprise capital. Now, along with helping to run the fellowship program, she’s also a VC at Ripple Ventures.