Diversity, Personally

When it comes to tapping into the potential of diverse teams, it’s not enough for just one person to have a great idea: the rest of the team must be receptive and open.

To me, the importance of diverse teams is one of those Obvious Truths – prioritizing diversity is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do in terms of business success. However, if I were asked a series of why questions like my daughter often does (Why are diverse teams better? Why are they important? Why isn’t the pipeline the problem?) at a dinner or out for coffee, I would probably struggle to deliver facts and ROI. I’m up to date on the studies, books, and articles on the topic of diversity, but the examples from my lived experiences are the most visceral.  

The value of diversity was made obvious to me recently in a discrete example and my hope is this is the first of many I share. Just recently, a member of our  investment team at IVP pulled us in a direction that was as yet unfamiliar for us, but very natural for him. Practically, this was just another investment at IVP, one of the 10-15 new investments we make a year. However, this happened incidentally, because the company was familiar to him from his location and surroundings, from his upbringing and quite simply his language. 

My colleague of note, Army, has been with IVP for just over a year. Before he joined IVP, he was born and raised in Thailand, where he was a monk at age 14, and learned English for the first time when he moved to the US at age 15. Army joined IVP amidst Covid, which removed the geographic constraints of being at HQ and placed him back with his family in Thailand, re-immersed in the culture and re-connected to his Thai network. 

It didn’t take long until Army’s daily observations and interactions turned up a key investment opportunity, in the form of the knowledge of this standout company and a fighting chance at taking part as an institutional investor. The company was Ajaib, an Indonesian investment app based in Jakarta, with, notably, one Thai co-founder in Yada Piyajomkwan

Army, in a typical workday in  Bangkok, was immersed in different conversations, with different people, in a different language, on a different time zone, than I was in San Francisco. What that meant for IVP was that Army was attuned to investment trends and emerging companies in Southeast Asia that would otherwise have passed us by. 

When it comes to tapping into the potential of diverse teams, it’s not enough for just one person to have a great idea: the rest of the team must be receptive and open. In our case, the end of the story is as encouraging as the origin. Our team, starting with Eric, showed an openness to join many evening PDT meetings with the co-founders based in an unfamiliar geography, to immerse and grok a financial regulatory environment unlike our own, and to come to a mutual ‘yes’ with the company to invest. (Much of that by Army, over WhatsApp, in Thai.) Our comfort with and confidence in Army allowed us as a group to stretch to something incredibly exciting, albeit less familiar.

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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