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Venture Capitalist on diversity in VC funding: 'excellence can come from anywhere'

Oksana Malysheva Sputnik ATX Managing Partner & CEO, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss diversity in VC funding.

Video Transcript

- You know that expression, "show us the money, show me the money"? Well, the face of who you show that money to is changing to now include women and different people of color and different ethnicities. Let's talk about that and the future with Oksana Malysheva. She is the managing partner and CEO of Sputnik ATS, but also a managing partner and president of Linden Venture Fund. And Sputnik ATX, an accelerator that funds maker-founders with ideas to create positive change. Help us understand what that means.

OKSANA MALYSHEVA: Well, we invest in founders that have terrific idea and already have a product and a customer. And then it's our job to teach them the secret handshake of the startup universe, as well as to teach them how to sell and how to grow. So we-- if you are an MBA with a PowerPoint, there are probably other funding options for you. We like to invest in people who already have built something and know how to build it, because we feel it's easier to teach them business than the other way around.

- Oksana, what have the past 11 months been like for you? And how have you helped some of these startups just navigate the pandemic? Because it's been a very tough time for big companies, let alone being a startup in this type of environment.

OKSANA MALYSHEVA: Wow, this is such a phenomenally good question. And I will not lie, it had been tough. But the reality is startups are on mission impossible every day of their life. So if anything, I felt that we're almost better prepared to tackle this in stride. And it was really, really difficult. But I have to say, with a small exception, almost none of them skipped a beat. The part that surprised me most, actually, about female-led startups--

- Let me interrupt you. Let me start there, because this is a good segue into something that you turned the lens, the focus on to yourself. And you shared with us that you had found that Sputnik had over-indexed Asian founders, that you had under-indexed in Hispanic founders, and that you just slightly under-indexed for Black founders. So what have you done? Because we all know the studies would show larger diversity at boards of directors and companies leads to greater revenue and profit growth.

OKSANA MALYSHEVA: It starts with our conviction that excellence could come from everywhere. And where you look for the founders that you invite to apply in very much determines what you will get at the very end of this. So we were always searching for excellence. What we realized is, when we look for it broadly, you find diversity was excellent. So those two things are not mutually exclusive, they're mutually supportive.

So for us, that was the key to how we generally over-index. We would perform significantly better than anything that you might have read in any press about this industry. And this is because we are willing to work-- we are willing to not take any assumptions as to how the founder of the future looks like.

- I want to ask you about Austin, because you're based in Austin. We've been talking more and more about the city of Austin, when you have business leaders like Elon Musk moving to your city. Oracle recently announcing that their headquarters are moving there. I'm curious just to get your thoughts just on how you could see this potentially affecting how Austin's startup scene is right now, and also how it will continue to evolve.

OKSANA MALYSHEVA: Austin's startup scene is booming. And I think if anything, COVID had helped us-- I cannot say COVID had really helped us, but it opened the eyes for the rest of the world that you could do business just like this via Zoom. You could do business via computer screen. And the world of startups is broader than just the Silicon Valley. And I'm convinced that Silicon Valley will continue to succeed and thrive, but also the new hubs of startup excellence, like Austin, will emerge. We always had a lot of terrific founders, and in this new world, when the world is moving to Austin, I think we are proving to the world that there are many places where technological excellence and new innovation could thrive. Good weather does not hurt it.

- No, it's a great point. You're in a great part of the country, especially when we've got two feet of snow now melting outside. We want to thank you for joining us, Oksana Malysheva. Sputnik ATX managing partner and CEO. All the best to you--