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Society News Update, 1 Sept. 2016

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Welcome to the first KF Society News update.

We are pleased to launch a new Society News service, as a solution to a wonderful problem—given the expanding size of the Kauffman Fellows Society (474 Fellows, including our most recent starting class!), there’s just too much news about our community to squeeze into a once-a-month eBulletin.

So, we will be sending brief, headline-only Society News update emails weekly (and sending the full eBulletin monthly), with links to the stories published here. As usual, you can read the full news stories by following the links in the email.

If you prefer only to receive the monthly eBulletin, email news@kfp.org with your request. Unless we hear from you, we’ll be sending the weekly news updates so you can keep up with all of the great things Fellows are up to in the world.


Michael Roberts (Class 3) and First Nations Development Institute Receive Multiple Grants

First Nations logoMichael Roberts (Class 3) has been the President of the First Nations Development Institute since shortly after completing his fellowship. First Nations invests in institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and their communities. In June, the Institute published a report, “A Case for the Native Nonprofit Sector: Advocating for Cultural, Economic and Community Change.” The report found that while the Native nonprofit sector is “young and relatively under-resourced…[it] is vital to local economic vitality and is nurturing the next generation of American Indian leaders and supporting self-determination for tribes and tribal leaders.”

Shortly after the report was published, First Nations was awarded a $400,000 grant by the Fund for Shared Insight. Noting that Native causes comprised only 0.3% of foundation giving, Michael said of the project, “We hope to uncover perceptions that may obstruct giving to Native causes. Our overall goal is to facilitate openness and dialogue with mainstream philanthropic organizations…so that Native Americans are supported more equitably and adequately given their socio-economic situations.”

And on August 30, First Nations, along with Echo Hawk Consulting, was awarded a $2.5 million research grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for an additional 2-year project: “Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions.” At the conclusion of the project, a national campaign will be developed to improve awareness of and respect and equality for Native Americans. Congratulations, Michael!

GE logoGE Ventures Is the Place to Be, with the Addition of Ralph Taylor-Smith (Class 9)

Ralph Taylor-Smith (Class 9) recently joined GE Ventures, after more than 10 years at Battelle Ventures, where he performed his fellowship. Ralph is on the Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Team, focusing on “sensors, robotics, and data-com technologies for applications in factory automation, advanced manufacturing services and digital health.” Ralph’s addition to the GE Ventures team brings the Kauffman Fellow count to 5, including Lisa Coca (Class 21), Karen Kerr (Charter), Diana Maichin (Class 19), and Risa Stack (Class 2).

Risa Stack was profiled earlier this month in a VatorNews interview as the lead of GE Ventures’ New Business Creation Team, part of VatorNews’ “Meet the VC” series.

Brian Dixon (Class 21) and Kapor Capital Investing in Diversity

Kapor Capital logoBrian Dixon (Class 21) is a partner at Oakland, CA-based Kapor Capital, a firm with a deep commitment to diversity in its investing. Brian and the firm were recently profiled in an article, “Venture Capital Doesn’t Invest in Blacks and Latinos—But That’s Changing in Oakland.” In traditional VC, the percentage of funding going to firms where the founder is a person of color is 2-3%; at Kapor Capital, over 50% of investments are to firms with either a woman or person of color as its founder. Brian says, “Diverse founders scratch their own itch. That’s why you do entrepreneurship—to solve problems that you see or that somebody close to you sees.” In particular, Kapor Capital looks for portfolio companies that will benefit low-income communities or communities of color, such as with Thrive Market, a healthy food-delivery service with Costco-level prices. With each paid membership, Thrive donates a membership to a low-income household; the company is also working to change food stamp rules so that people who don’t live near grocery stores can use them for services like Thrive. Says Brian, “When we’re thinking about an investment, one of the main questions we ask is, ‘Who benefits if this tool actually works?'”

Federico Pirzio-Biroli (Class 19) Leaving London for Africa

Business Insider reports that Fede Pirzio-Biroli (Class 19) is closing Playfair Capital’s London co-working space and moving to East Africa to become an angel investor; he will remain an LP in the fund. Before he founded Playfair in 2010, Fede worked for various NGOs in Africa, so the move back is a natural one for him: “I am and have always been personally excited by frontier markets, and feel like there is a real opportunity to move the needle there for the better.”

MPM logoMPM Capital Launches Social Impact Oncology Fund

MPM Capital announced that it is launching a $471M social impact oncology fund, the first of its kind. On the management team for the fund will be Ansbert Gadicke (Mentor Class 8) and Christiana Bardon (Class 8), founder of Burrage Capital. The fund closed in May, and was raised in partnership with UBS; portfolio investments will be in cancer therapeutics. MPM has dedicated a portion of its own profits from the fund to providing access to cancer care in the developing world, and an equal portion will go to fund cancer research.

Corey Ford’s (Class 17) Matter Ventures Teams Up with the New York Times

Corey Ford’s (Class 17) Matter Ventures, a San Francisco-based media accelerator, has launched its first class in New York City, with the partnership of the New York Times and Google News Lab.  This current cohort (Matter Six) consists of 6 teams in NYC and 6 teams in SF, which will be together for their boot camp, their mid-course design review, and their demo day. In between, teams have a heavy emphasis on prototyping, failing fast, and iterating quickly to reach product–market fit sooner. Read Corey’s post on medium.com about the NYC expansion.

Andras Forgacs (Class 14) and Modern Meadow Raise $40M Series-B to Commercialize Biofabricated Leather

Modern Meadow logoCongratulations to Andras Forgacs (Class 14), whose firm Modern Meadow has just completed its Series B funding round to move their technology from the laboratory to the commercialization stage, and expect their products to be in stores sometime in 2018. Andras says, “We’re creating this new story around leather. Leather is a $100 billion global market, it’s highly fragmented, and for the most part there’s really no brand of leather material. We’re looking to change that.”

Modern Meadow’s technology involves creating leather from collagen protein found in animal skin, without involving animals. In addition, the process eliminates much of the toxic processing that traditional leather must go through before it is usable in consumer products. Biofabricated leather can be custom-built to designers’ specifications, including elasticity and thickness, while enabling altogether new properties, such as an improved strength-to-weight ratio. Read about Modern Meadow’s recent activities in articles from TechCrunch and Crain’s.

Congraulations are also in order for Andras, who was just named to Crain’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2016.

Freada Kapor Klein (KF Faculty) Writes of Silicon Valley’s “Leaky Pipeline”

Entrepreneur logoFreada Kapor Klein, Kauffman Fellows Faculty and Partner at Kapor Capital, wrote an article in Entrepreneur entitled “Silicon Valley’s Leaky Pipeline Problem,” addressing the lack of entrepreneurs receiving venture funding who are women or people of color, noting the near-total absence of African American women among funded entrepreneurs in the U.S. in the last 2 years. Recent studies have also found that women entrepreneurs receive 77% of the funding their male counterparts do, on average—a very close match to the male/female wage gap in this country.

While the “pipeline problem” has received much press recently as the source of this gap—that fewer women and people of color enter science and tech fields while in their schooling years, creating a smaller pool of candidates at the entrepreneur and executive levels—Freada also identifies a “leaky pipeline problem.” This second problem is comprised of unconscious biases and hidden barriers at every level of the career path that cause members of these groups to pursue other fields and career paths. Read the full article for more on what those biases and barriers are and their effects on the “pipeline.”

Grace Sai (Class 21) Opens Second Singapore Co-Working Space

The Hub SingaporeGrace Sai (Class 21), Founder and CEO of The Hub, a co-working space in Singapore, has recently opened a second location. The Hub was already one of Singapore’s largest co-working locations and after only a year in operation is operating at almost 100% capacity. Its new location will offer more private offices and a mix of corporate and startup environments. With a recent report showing over 5,400 tech startups in Singapore, it looks like Grace is in the middle of the action. Read an interview with Grace by Techseen about The Hub’s role in helping startups grow, receive mentoring, and learn and network through workshops, talks, and events.

Marlon Nichols (Class 18) Interviewed by VatorNews and Founders Network

Marlon Nichols (Class 18), of Cross Culture Ventures, had two online interviews this summer—one as part of VatorNews’ “Meet the VC” series, and one by Founders Network. In both, Marlon discusses his firm’s focus and investment philosophy and its emphasis on looking forward to the global trends of tomorrow to try to predict consumer behavior.  Says Marlon, “If you can identify and predict how consumers will behave and you get it right, then you can invest in tomorrow’s next great companies. On another note, unconscious bias does exist when investors evaluate companies. We don’t have any kind of ‘out of whack’ belief systems; for example, we don’t believe that Black, male, female, white, or purple people are less capable of creating a great company. We strip away that nonsense, and focus on investing in the best founders with the best ideas.”

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