Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Let’s get the week started off right with a great interview. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Meagan Loyst, the founder and CEO of Gen Z VCs. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Meagan! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Gen Z VCs?
Meagan: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Gen Z VCs is a collective of 17,000+ young venture capitalists (VCs), angel investors, founders, startup enthusiasts, and aspiring VCs. The community and now movement strives to make venture capital (VC) more transparent and welcoming for the next generation of investors through several initiatives. We serve as the central place where young people in venture capital can collaborate, connect Gen Z founders with like-minded young investors, and elevate the Gen Z perspective and voices.
Spiffy: Very cool! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Meagan: Friendship was the primary motivator initially! As the youngest person at my fund starting a job during the pandemic, I wanted to find a way to make friends in VC and share insights. However, there wasn't a dedicated place to do that without judgment. So, naturally, I created one! I founded Gen Z VCs when I was 23 years old, and it's grown into an incredible movement powered by me and my friends. At the center is believing and proving to the world that young voices have value in this industry, flipping the narrative that you need XYZ years of experience to be a meaningful contributor. I personally love creating initiatives to help the next generation of leaders see that in themselves and lean into their natural strengths as Gen Zers!
Spiffy: Wow! That is exciting. How are you and your team working towards a more equitable world?
Meagan: Gen Z VCs is all about creating access to opportunity and education. We have several initiatives that I run with friends to bring people together and level the playing field for the next generation. We recently launched our 2022 VC global peer mentorship program, which has 140 students and recent grads participating from 87 universities all over the world. We have mentees from 40+ cities in more than ten countries, and it's an incredibly diverse cohort: 46% identify as BIPOC, 51% identify as women or gender-non-conforming, and 26% are first-generation college students. This is the future of our industry. Our mentors are also largely Gen Zers themselves and are representative of what the world looks like, so we're paving the way and showing what's possible.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community?
Meagan: The engagement in our community is incredible, with 270k+ messages in our Slack group—you don't tend to see that level of communication and hype in online communities. What's special about this and what makes me really proud is this has been achieved entirely organically and in a way that's community-led. With now almost 18,000 members, people naturally are inclined to help one another, share experiences, and trade notes, then invite others to the community after they have great experiences. It's magical to see everyone take real pride and ownership over the work that we do as a collective—I never could have anticipated the sheer size of the impact when I first created the Slack group for 30 of my friends!
Spiffy: Wonderful! Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Meagan: Buzzer is a mobile app focused on helping Gen Z access memorable live sports moments, and Gen Z VCs had an opportunity to help bring the Gen Z perspective around the table to inform building the product, community, and even the cap table! We facilitated a QandA with the founder Bo Han, helped Buzzer find Gen Z interns to bring onto their team (even a high schooler who was incredibly engaged with the product!), and helped build up their waitlist in the early days. And even better, we made it possible to bring Gen Zers onto the cap table as investors alongside athletes like Naomi Osaka, Michael Jordan, and Patrick Mahomes.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Meagan: As a young person, you will always be underestimated because of your age. Remember that lived experiences and determination can often outweigh years of experience, so don't let others discourage you from pursuing opportunities simply because you're "not qualified" or have "all the time in the world" to go after what you want. No better time than the present!
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Meagan—it’s been an honor!
Meagan Loyst is the founder and CEO of Gen Z VCs. She is known as the “Queen of Gen Z VC” by her peers and the press. Meagan has been featured on the 2022 Forbes 30-Under-30 list and as a LinkedIn 2022 Top Voice. She is a full-time investor at Lerer Hippeau. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 11, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.