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, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurial leaders working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Rendel Solomon, senior program advisor at VC Include.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Rendel! Tell me, what challenges are you addressing through your organization?
Rendel: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! The television show Shark Tank popularized venture capital (VC). VC is the business of buying pieces (shares) of companies. When a VC investor buys a piece of a company, the entrepreneur can grow the business while the investor shares in future profits and value. The problem is that the decision-makers and firms that manage the capital do not accurately reflect the demographic makeup of the United States. There are very few women and very few people of color who are in a position to make these types of investments in companies. At VC Include, we work with aspiring fund managers (people who do what the sharks on Shark Tank do), to help them gain access to this industry.
Spiffy: Very cool! What motivated you to do it?
Rendel: While I am not the founder of VC Include, I was drawn to its mission and purpose given my 13 prior years of working as an investor. I recognized the disparities and limitations for people of color and women to have an opportunity to be in this field. I connected with the founder to serve as an advisor to advance the work of supporting fund managers to raise money to do more VC deals.
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Rendel: VC Include hosts an eight-week fellowship program for aspiring fund managers (or future sharks) to support them on their journey to raise a VC fund. These managers come from diverse racial and gender profiles. Our belief is that getting more capital in the hands of diverse fund managers will expand opportunities for diverse individuals starting and growing businesses.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?
Rendel: VC Include just completed its third cohort of the flagship fellowship program where we took aspiring fund managers through an eight-week course on how to raise a fund. With our support, these managers will be in a better position to raise capital and execute their fund strategy investing in companies in healthcare, climate, housing, and other critical areas that will greatly benefit underserved communities.
Spiffy: That’s amazing! Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Rendel: Collide Capital, founded by Aaron Samuels and Brian Hollins, is an investment firm that was a member of the very first cohort of VC Include fellows. Collide Capital focuses on investing with the most innovative and hard-working founders solving the next generation of global challenges. Since completing the VC Include fellowship, Collide has gone on to raise $66 million to invest in a portfolio of companies. We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to further supporting them as alumni of the VC Include fellowship program.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Rendel: For more information on my personal and professional journey, please visit www.sharecroppertoshareholder.com to view my 2018 TEDx Talk.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Rendel—it’s been an honor!
Rendel Solomon currently serves as senior program advisor for VC Include, a fellowship program for diverse first-time private equity fund managers. Prior, he spent 13 years at Muller & Monroe Asset Management, a Chicago-based private equity fund-of-funds firm that invested exclusively with diverse and emerging fund managers on behalf of institutional investors. He is originally from Chicago where he resides with his wife Danyelle and 18-month-old daughter Savannah. (Nominated by Patrick Driscoll at Chasing Rainbows. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 11, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. 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.