Interview with Freada Kapor Klein, Kapor Capital
Freada Kapor Klein, PhD is Partner at the Kapor Center for Social Impact. She is an entrepreneur, activist and leader in the field of organizational culture and diversity. Freada is a pioneer in developing models for revenue and sustainability of non-profits, and is an active advisor and mentor to social entrepreneurs. She is also an advocate for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, especially people of color and women.
Phil Wickham leads Kauffman Fellows, a two-year, highly sought after fellowship program designed to develop, inspire and network the next generation of diverse venture capitalists. Phil leads a society of more than 400 VCs who have come through the program, with the goal of supporting entrepreneurship globally.
Phil: Which investment makes you the proudest?
Freada: One is Pigeonly, a data company started by Frederick Hudson that supports connections between those that are incarcerated and the outside world. Fredrick’s business started out because phone calls to and from the incarcerated are still three and four bucks a minute—it’s criminal, pardon the pun, and this is a sector of society that can least afford those kinds of rates. And if you track recidivism, which is bad for all of us, there’s a strong correlation with losing ties to your family. Fredrick found a way to basically provide a local exchange for every prison. He has radically reduced the costs. His next product is about photos, by the way. People have their photos on their phones now. So, e-mail them to Fredrick. He’ll print them and get them in the right-sized envelope for hardly any money. But do that at scale, and it’s a lot of money.
Phil: Is there a prevailing ethos by which you live and invest?
Freada: We’re hardcore about a few things: It has to be a tech business, seed stage, and the very purpose of the business has to be to close gaps. We’re not sector-istic, because you can close gaps of access and opportunity whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s fintech. Being poor is very expensive. And so we are looking to close gaps of access. Sometimes that’s subtle or not so subtle. Racism’s subtle or not so subtle. Sexism, as well.
Phil: Diversity. Any thoughts?
Freada: Look at the Cross Culture Venture website and figure out what thing on there is not like the other. I have never stood out in a compilation of people like I stand out on that website.
Phil: What app do you have on your phone? It can’t be an investment—just something that would surprise people?
Freada: Um, Pandora. I have my own station. BB King, Carlos Santana, Rita Simone. I listen to it mostly in the car.
Phil: What are you optimistic about for the future?
Freada: I’m incredibly optimistic that this is an unprecedented moment for diversity in tech. I have not seen this level of sustained interest by senior people ever, and I’ve been at this for decades. Maybe this perfect storm of change in demographic and economic pressure, and a talent shortage, means there are a lot of strands that we can weave together and do something to really break through.
Phil Wickham is CEO of the Kauffman Fellows. Phil was in the Charter Class of the Kauffman Fellows Program, serving his fellowship under Ed Kania at OneLiberty Ventures in Boston, and was founding Vice-Chairman of the KF Board. Prior to joining the CVE staff, Phil served as a General Partner at JAFCO America Ventures and at Copan, based in Munich, Germany. In his venture career, Phil made over 30 investments, including Twitter, Ikanos, Web Methods, Com21, and Trilibis. Phil received his BSME from the University of Arizona and his MBA from Rensselaer. He serves on the boards of Trilibis and Lawson America. firstname.lastname@example.org.