Responsible Innovation for Venture Capital: How can we shape an industry to build and scale responsibly?

Venture-backed technology is a powerful force in our world -- properly wielded it can be a true super power for humanity. At the same time, the industry hasn't done enough to guard against its downsides, exacerbating some of society's biggest problems, from income inequality to the marginalization of people, to misinformation and more. From climate technology to enterprise SaaS and more, how can investors support the next generation of companies to innovate responsibly?

Quentin Clark of General Catalyst, Laura Weidman Powers of Base10, Tim Wang of The Westly Group, and Clara Brenner of the Urban Innovation Fund joined RIL Co-Founder Jon Zieger for a candid discussion on how investors can support founders on responsible innovation. They dialed in on the role of venture capital in building and scaling companies, how each fund is approaching responsible innovation, and where there’s alignment and differences in investor views.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lead with bottom line (vs. impact) then show how creating financial value also creates positive impact.
  • Values-alignment is a two-way street; VCs and companies both seek it. Get started by writing your culture down and be a responsible partner to help founders stay true to their values. The earlier you can set up processes and systems the more it will help.
  • Most important: early stage investors help companies with governance - getting leadership composition, structures, and policies in place so that companies can grow responsibly.
  • Risk assessment is changing and needs to evolve - early stage companies need to plan for where the IPO market / societal expectations will be in 8-10 years, not where they are right now.
  • “We are still very early days in understanding the role of capitalism in solving society’s problems…employees are ahead of founders, [who] are ahead of investors.” - Laura Weidman Powers

Session Speakers

Clara Brenner

Managing Partner, Urban Innovation Fund

Clara Brenner is the Managing Partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in the future of cities. Previously, she co-founded Tumml, a startup hub for urban tech. In 2014, Forbes listed her as one of its “30 Under 30” for Social Entrepreneurship. Clara’s work energizing urban entrepreneurship has been featured in numerous press outlets, including MSNBC and TechCrunch, among others.

Learn more

Quentin Clark

Managing Director, General Catalyst

Quentin Clark is a Managing Director and Investor at General Catalyst, after a long operating career as former CTO of Dropbox, CTO and CBO at SAP, and CVP at Microsoft. He has worked on products, product strategy, definition and planning, engineering, growth, organization and business development. Adviser to companies at all scales, Quentin led GC’s investments in Minio, Eightfold AI, Aviatrix, Glean, Neon and others.

Learn more

Tim Wang

Managing Partner, The Westly Group

Tim Wang is a Managing Partner at the Westly Group in 2015 and helps manage the firm’s deal flow and due diligence process. He led Westly’s investments into Luminar, Uplight, RapidSOS, Aquicore, T-REX, and others. Prior to joining the Westly Group, Tim was a Co-Founder and Head of Business Development at a China-based financial technology start-up, ChinaScope, where he raised $5M from Moody’s Corporation. Tim began his career as an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, a leading financial data provider for financial institutions and advisory firms.

Learn more

Laura Weidman Powers

Partner, Base10

Laura Weidman Powers is a Partner at Base10. She leads portfolio services and operations for the fund’s Advancement Initiative, the firm's $250M growth fund designed to close the endowment gap at America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Previously, she was Head of Impact at Echoing Green and Co-Founder and CEO of Code2040. She served in the Obama Administration as senior advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Learn more

Jon Zieger

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Responsible Innovation Labs

Jon is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Responsible Innovation Labs. Previously, he was the General Counsel and Head of Global Policy at Stripe, where he oversaw all legal and policy affairs for the company and oversaw a team of experts to help Stripe expand globally, ensure compliance with global legal and regulatory requirements and strengthen the company’s ability to simplify complexities in the global financial system.

Learn more

We want to hear from you!

Inspired by this session? Have questions and want to learn more? Responsible Innovation Labs is all about community, and fostering compelling conversations like these. Let us know what you think, and share your thoughts with us below.

Thank you! Your submission has been received. We'll be in touch!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.