Recruitment and Education: Insight continues to expand programs to ensure diverse candidate pipeline for undergrad recruiting. Our goal is to ensure all roles include candidates with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives from interns to non-investment positions.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender and racial gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Geller.
Rachel Geller is a Managing Director with Insight Partners, where she helps lead investments in high growth software and internet companies. Rachel works closely with multiple Insight portfolio companies. Rachel began her career at Insight as part of Onsite, where she scaled and led the strategy and M&A team. Rachel has helped evaluate hundreds of potential Insight investments, and has provided investment, growth and M&A support for more than fifty portfolio companies. Prior to joining Insight, Rachel worked as a strategy consultant and product marketer at American Express.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
My dad is an entrepreneur and growing up, I always wanted to either start my own company or support others on their journey. I’ve been at Insight Partners for more than 13 years and when I started my career in the venture world, I was working closely with portfolio companies and supporting their founders. As I’ve shifted focus to investing, my mindset has always been one of partnership and finding ways to help.
Can you share a story of your firm’s most successful Angel or VC investment? In your opinion, what was its main lesson?
The best investments are when Insight and the Company align on shared values. Scaling a software business can be very challenging and it’s important that if you’re going to be in the trenches together, that you are able to see eye to eye and have a mutual respect for what everyone brings to the table. This can mean hours of due diligence and continued conversations with the C-Suite to ensure their company is a success. This is one of the things that makes Insight stand out and that I love about working here. When a CEO is focused on partnership, we find those relationships tend to be the most fulfilling and end up with the best results.
Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding “failure”? Is there a lesson or take away that you took out of that that our readers can learn from?
There have been several times when startups are just graduating to the “ScaleUp” phase (that is, they have product market fit and are ready to build up from the foundations they’ve put in place) and growth may not be perfectly linear. Scaling a company is hard. Through our partnership with founders, and with the expertise of our Insight Onsite team, we work with our portfolio to quickly recognize when something isn’t working and support our companies through that process.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.7% of VC dollars went to women in 2019. This number is even smaller for women of color. Can you share with our readers what your firm is doing to help close both the VC gender and racial gap?
- In recent years, leaders have faced a reckoning on how they run and staff their businesses, catalyzing a long-overdue look at diversity, equity and inclusion. It is critical that companies scale with all forms of DE&I in mind. Insight Partners is no exception and we’re committed to promoting opportunity and inclusion through action.
- In order to make lasting change and be transparent about our efforts, Insight Partners communicated actions in 2020 and 2021 to increase diversity at Insight Partners, within the software ecosystem and our portfolio companies.
Insight Partners’ responsibility to action has continued into 2021, with the following:
- Creation of Insight’s ScaleUp CEO DE&I Pledge, with Insight’s portfolio companies committing to diverse recruiting practices, actions to build an inclusive culture, and reporting progress. By laying a foundation for accountability, Insight and the CEO pledge signees are committing to the journey. To support them, we are building out partnerships, programs and a network of DE&I leaders to help our portfolio companies in their efforts.
- The launch of the JumpStart program with the support of an approximately 1 million dollars investment from Insight Partners. JumpStart’s goal is to create career opportunities leading to more than 15 million dollars in annual earnings potential in five years for diverse candidates who graduate from the JumpStart Scholarship program.
- Raised and deployed a 15M dollars Vision Capital 2020 Limited Partner Fund to invest in diverse-led, early-stage funds. Vision Capital 2020 consists entirely of capital commitments from senior partners at Insight, seeking to address the industry’s pipeline problem by providing capital to diverse managers to help close the industry’s diversity gap.
- Recruitment and Education: Insight continues to expand programs to ensure diverse candidate pipeline for undergrad recruiting. Our goal is to ensure all roles include candidates with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives from interns to non-investment positions.
- We offer a free online learning module that dives into the full VC/PE industry and how investing works. After completing the full series, participants have the opportunity to stay connected with Insight Partners to learn more about the industry, the role of a VC/PE analyst, and additional opportunities.
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender and racial gap? Please share a short story or example for each.
I’ve outlined the steps that Insight has taken across a number of areas, but I’ll share a couple more ideas that come to mind. While we feel internally that we still have a long way to go, I’m proud of Insight’s initiatives that are underway and of the efforts made across all levels of the firm.
I think that particularly on the recruiting side, the more women you hire, the more women want to work at your company and recruiting and retention keep getting easier. I was recently on a pitch call with a founder and two other women from Insight, and we remarked afterwards that we wondered how many VCs would be pitching that company with not just a female partner, but an all-female deal team? That happens all the time at Insight, and it’s been great to see this shift first-hand.
On a personal level, investing in education is really important to me and ultimately the first step in ensuring we cultivate a pipeline of talent with an interest in tech. I am involved with an organization locally called A Better Chicago, a venture philanthropy fund devoted to dramatically improving educational opportunities for low-income students. A Better Chicago is empowering Chicago’s most effective nonprofits to scale and meet the need for better educational options for our city and region. This is an organization that’s close to my heart as it helps my local community and focuses on education.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Kindness! I have young kids and I am always imparting on them the importance of kindness. I’ve always felt and share this with my kids that if we can all be more kind to one another in the way we interact, the world would be a better place. And while I’m oversimplifying for my children, I think it’s something adults can work on as well.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing worth having comes easy” is a saying that I hold myself accountable to. There is so much more than work ethic that goes into success, but I believe that you can’t achieve great things without hard work and hustle. I am grateful to have a joined a firm early in my career that embodies “hustle” deeply in our culture, and I work with some of the most driven and entrepreneurial people as part of Insight Partners and across our founders and management teams.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’ve always admired the drive and perseverance of elite athletes and following the long-awaited Olympics this summer, swimmer Katie Ledecky is someone I would love to meet. Not only is she the most decorated female swimmer in history, she’s only 24 years old and has competed in 3 Olympics. Wow! Katie has been at the top of her game over a period of many years, and competes in long distance categories. She truly embodies the concept of work ethic and it being a “marathon not a sprint”. I’d love to talk to her about how she trains and stays focused, and what has she learned on her journey to success.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.