Hey y’all, I’m Dustin Shay. I’m excited to hear (and attempt to answer) your questions during this week’s AMA.
I work to break down barriers keeping entrepreneurship from making impact on issues that matter. Less than 15% of companies on the unicorn list are solving issues of access, agency, and quality in healthcare, education, housing, food/agriculture, or energy. Less than 15% of support goes to women-led ventures and less than 2% to black or LatinX founders in the US. Less than 25% of US VC goes outside of NY, CA, and MA.
The most successful entrepreneurs solve problems they know. Problems they’ve lived. And the biggest gaps in our society disproportionately affect women, people of color, and people outside of major cities. But the entrepreneurs from these communities often lack access to networks, guidance, and capital that they need to scale their solutions up.
It’s not that these founders lack drive or that the companies they’re leading aren’t good investments. It’s not that VCs are individually and intentionally overallocating their capital to a few people and places. There’s a combination of systemic barriers, implicit and explicit biases, and outdated approaches that keep society from unlocking the power of entrepreneurship.
In my day job, I help to lead Village Capital, the world’s most active and connected seed-stage impact investing organization. For the last 10 years, we’ve led inclusive accelerator programs all around the world, taking a data-driven approach to finding the right way to support early-stage startups - and creating a process proven to help ventures raise 3x more capital, generate 2x more revenue, and growth their companies 50% faster than a control group. We’ve proven a different kind of investment model, entrepreneur peer selection, can mitigate bias and create a more inclusive portfolio while outperforming funds of its venture year. We’re using this experience to build the infrastructure of a better system - helping accelerators work better, helping investors and entrepreneurs connect, and sharing open resources for founders everywhere.
I lead our Partnerships team now, securing funding and strategic partnerships with industry-leading corporations, institutional foundations, and inspired individual investors and philanthropists. Before this, I led several of our accelerator programs, including Village Capital’s first accelerator program focused on supporting financial health-focused ventures in 2014. That practice alone has now helped over 250 founders worldwide go on to raise over $1B and reach hundreds of thousands of people and small businesses with services that improve their economic mobility and financial resiliency.
Outside of VilCap, I’m an advisory board member of Left Tackle Capital, which is changing the demographics of VC. Right now, 92% of investment teams in early-stage VC are white men, and ~90% of investment goes to white men. We believe a more representative investment community leads to more equitable, resilient, and successful portfolios. We help first- and second-time fund managers who are women or PoC access the capital, community, and tools they need to launch their investment funds. We’re in the inaugural class right now, working with 12 amazing funds.
I work with Republic to help founders that the traditional VC leaves out find other paths to get the capital they need to scale. I’m specifically looking for companies that are solving systemic issues in economic empowerment, the future of work, or sustainability that are led by women or people of color.
Before all of this, I led investment teams with the Sorenson Impact Center, which made seed-stage investments in startups improving livelihoods worldwide. Before that, I was a barista and a student, and spent eight years slinging coffee at local coffeehouses and international chains.
I’m a nerd that enjoys video and board games, genuine conversations with people that are smarter than me, and cooking delicious (but ugly) food. I yell at podcasts about politics and spend far too much time inconsistently studying Japanese (I can hold simple conversations), trying to learn guitar (I’m terrible at it), watching stupid cartoon shows, or playing D&D.
You can ask me about anything. How to approach investors or strategic partners, what allyship means in the entrepreneurial and investment communities, what better accelerator programs look like, why the system needs to change, or what effects social distancing has on group dynamics in roleplaying games.
Let’s get started!
Republic Venture Partner AMA (Ask Me Anything) is a weekly series. Feel free to ask questions in the discussion section below.* He will be answering questions Wednesday 5/13 through Friday 5/15 so submit your questions now!
*must sign into Republic account to ask questions — register here first!