Welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! On today’s episode, I speak with Leslie Jump, founder and CEO at DifferentFunds, which is the first platform designed and built for investing in venture funds. Leslie has spent the bulk of her career building, advising, and investing in new companies, both in the US and worldwide. Most recently, she served as a Partner in Sawari Ventures, LLC, a Cairo-based early stage venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs across the Middle East and North Africa. On today’s episode, Leslie shares her inspiration for launching DifferentFunds, and how she’s helping a diverse network of more than 800 funds access the resources they need to support entrepreneurs globally.
DifferentFunds began as Startup Angels in 2013, with the initial goal to match angel investors with startup investment opportunities. Eventually, however, Leslie and her team realized something critical: venture capital has a math problem. While the vast majority of venture funds have a median size of $60 million, most investors don’t consider funds under $100 million. What was really needed was a product that would allow the two sides of the marketplace to interact and transact with each other. On the DifferentFunds platform, qualified individuals and institutions can find, research, and invest in venture capital funds. The platform has a database of 900 highly diverse US-based firms, investing in everything from AI, to blockchain, to robotics, and more. In Leslie’s words, “Our job isn’t trying to guess who’s going to be the top of the top performers. We’re not trying to find the needle in the haystack that is the “best possible” fund. We’re building the haystack.”
The diversity on DifferentFunds is also reflected in the makeup of the funds themselves: 65% of the funds have a woman, a person of color, or both at the helm. Rather than a unique outlier, Leslie asserts that the diversity is a reflection of reality, and the fact that, both in the US and globally, society is shifting towards true multiculturalism. With multiple studies showing that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams, performance is a key benefit to highlight to the limited partners. “You want your investment to be high performance? This is how. These folks have a propensity to outperform others, they see opportunity where others might not. They are dialed in.” Venture capital is a young industry, which has historically relied on pattern matching in lieu of true business intelligence. Leslie and her team are aware of this, and actively collecting data and building models that will better equip investors to make smarter decisions.
Leslie’s advice for anyone new to the platform? First and foremost, talk to a financial advisor in order to set a realistic investing budget. After that, engage with your local startup investing community through startup weekends and other events. Finally, be aware that startup investing isn’t a sprint or even a marathon: it’s a marriage, so plan accordingly, and make sure you’re investing in something you’re passionate about. As far as general career advice, Leslie urges people not to be afraid of asking questions, and to cultivate fearlessness in the face of unknowns.
Thank you so much for coming onto the show this week, Leslie! I loved hearing about the work you’re doing with DifferentFunds, and your keen insights into the world of venture capital investing. Thank you also to everyone out there listening, reviewing, and sharing the show. See you next week!
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