In this week’s episode of The Room Podcast, Madison and Claudia sit down with Sydney Sykes, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of BLCK VC. Founded in 2018, BLCK VC empowers and advances black venture investors by providing a focus community built for and by black venture investors. Out of Harvard undergrad, Sydney joined New Enterprise Associates as an investment analyst before moving on to e-commerce planning with Dolls Kill. Today, Sydney is also studying at Stanford GSB for her MBA.
This week’s key themes and insights include solving the problems you see in the world, the future of direct-to-consumer investing, and the integral role of a unique perspective and driving innovation. Let’s open the door.
Season 4 of The Room Podcast is sponsored by our friends at SVB and Cooley. Learn more about SVB’s Access to Innovation initiative here.
Key Theme 1: Solving the problems you see in the world
Blck VC is evidence that you have the ability to solve the problems you see in the world. Sydney took her lived experience and passion for building a better tomorrow into action. This passion to unlock more equity in who’s represented in venture led her to create her non-profit. Whether you’re thinking of starting a non-profit or a for-profit business that solves something you deeply believe should change; Sydney reminds us that you are empowered to build for that future.
Key Theme 2: Direct-to-consumer Brands and their Evolution
Having spent time in operations at Dolls Kill, a venture-backed DTC brand, Sydney has unique insights into the future of e-commerce. As an investor, Sydney is compelled by brands who are taking a more differentiated approach to finding and cultivating community with their customers. She specifically is interested if they’re providing a product or service that no one else is offering. Two driving questions Sydney shared when it comes to investing in DTC are What's different about what I'm building? Why is this going to take off in a way that works for venture capital?
Key Theme 3: The integral role of a unique perspective and driving innovation
Sydney believes the venture capital industry’s growth is dependent on unique perspectives and new ideas.
“If a venture capital firm continues to have the same perspectives for long periods of time, or doesn't bring in new networks or doesn't bring in something that gives them a competitive advantage, that firm will fall behind.”
She gives the example that lack of diversity in a firm leads to a massive ecosystem gap. Without any black investors, firms are missing 15% of consumers as well as the inability to relate to and fully understand some of their founders.
Thank you to Sydney for joining us in The Room! We will be back next week with a new episode on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 7AM PST.
Alexa Buckley is the Co-Founder of Margaux - a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand of insanely comfortable and beautiful shoes. If you pay attention to Instagram posts from influencers wearing handcrafted ballet flats in every color of the rainbow, then you’ve probably seen a Margaux shoe. Alexa started the shoe line during her senior year at Harvard. Alongside co-founder, Sarah Pierson, the two women realized the pervasive shoe shuffle, where working women would have to swap their walking shoes with their office shoes under their desks due to a lack of style in the former and comfort in the latter. Why wasn’t it possible to have both? It was time to take a leap of faith and disrupt the shoe industry. Landing on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and nailing a Vogue spread, Alexa and the story of Margaux inspires us all to Guax for it! ...
In this episode of The Room, Claudia and Madison kick off the new season with Amy Chang, Co-Founder of Accompany, an AI-driven relationship intelligence platform acquired by Cisco in 2018 for $270 million. we hear from a first-time founder and long term product guru on the ups and downs of transitioning from big tech to founding a company. Listen here to learn about the power of early career decisions, battling anxiety and uncertainty, and the right reasons to sell your company. ...
In The Room with Kelly Graziadei and Joanna Lee Shevelenko, General Partners of F7. For this episode of The Room, we chat with the women who lead the investments and operations of F7. F7 is a seed investment fund, composed of seven senior female operators. With their combined 16 years at Facebook, Kelly and Joanna explain what they learned from their time there and how they want to use their experience, relationships, and capital to make a difference. Kelly and Joanna manage F7 because they see a huge issue with the number of women that have “a seat at the table” in the investment industry and they want to encourage more women to be founders. This conversation describes some of the barriers to entry as a woman in the investment world and the importance of giving everyone an equal starting place in the industry. Plus, Kelly and Joanna reveal some common mistakes that new founders make and explain how the women of F7 can be beneficial at any stage in the startup process. For The Room Podcast in your inbox every week, subscribe to our newsletter. 3:55 - Joanna left Facebook after 9 years to pursue F7, how did her time there shape her career?5:57 - How did Kelly get involved with VCs, and why did she see the need for F7?7:32 - How did Kelly first make the transition into Venture? What was the aha moment that venture was next for her career?12:02 - What is the initial mission and investment thesis of F7?13:55 - What stage in a startup is the right ...