baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series (1)

‘Just do it! Invest in minority-led startups’Andrea Course

Andrea Course works as Venture Principal at Shell Ventures and is baMa’s latest advisory board member. In honour of her incorporation into baMa’s family we have taken some time to speak and discuss with her some topics regarding the energy transition sector and diversity in venture capital.

IN: How has 2020 been for the energy transition sector?

ANDREA: it has been interesting. We have seen a lot of changes with the pandemic like people placing higher interest into energy transition and what we can do to achieve more sustainable energy products. Even though the pandemic was very disruptive to our industry I think that it has helped to accelerate the energy transition.

IN: What are your future perspectives for the energy transition sector?

ANDREA: Shell Ventures will continue to invest in three main areas. First, in resources that encompass everything that has to do with our core business and how to make our operations more efficient and greener. We also look at things like biofuels, hydrogen, carbon capture, storage, and utilisation. Second, we will continue to work to find new ways of power generation, for example using wind and solar energy. Lastly, we make sure to look at the future of mobility. This includes thinking about new business models, what is going to happen in the future and how to remain relevant in a world
where electric vehicles will become the norm.

IN: What does baMa mean to you?

ANDREA: Pure excitement. Myself being a minority, makes me able to totally relate to the struggles that we face in venture capital. baMa is a great organisation that will bring the resources to the people who need them the most. There are so many talented people that are minorities and many enterprises that have been started by minorities. baMa is about bringing a high level of visibility to them, which is absolutely needed.

IN: What could be done to fix the lack of diversity?

ANDREA: Part of the problem is having diverse teams that are making the decisions in the first place. You tend to invest in people that look like you, so fixing the problem means having diverse VC firms and investors. Research has shown time after time that VC teams that are diverse have enhanced productivity, and a better financial performance. Diversity is not only good for start-ups but also for investors.

IN: You state that diversity matters in a multinational corporation and a start-up, but can we expect some differences in the implementation of diversity depending on whether it is a big corporation or a start-up?

ANDREA: The key is making it intentional. Whether you are a multinational corporation or a start-up, you need to be intentional when you are hiring diversity in the workforce. You need to make sure that you are aware of inherited biases that make you like people that are like you in order to not end up hiring a team that looks and thinks exactly like you. Being intentional when you are hiring, means not only hiring because somebody is diverse, it is about giving the same opportunities to everybody. There is enough diverse talent to choose from.

IN: Can we add something to diversity to achieve a good financial performance?

ANDREA: If you count with diverse teams, you have better financial performance because you have different points of view and you tend to evaluate opportunities in a much better way. Good financial performance comes not only from a diversity of gender and race, but also from diverse backgrounds and education.

IN: Could we expect more diversity in venture capital and investment in general?

ANDREA: I hope so. The pandemic was tough for women in general so last year was not ideal. We were making a lot of process and last year it stopped. According to Pitchbook investment in VC was at an all-time high but investment in women founded companies was the lowest it has been in the past 5 years. Hopefully we can go back to the point where we were before the pandemic.

IN: What could be done to increase diversity? For example, establish quotas to hire a certain percentage of women in the workplace?

ANDREA: I’m in the middle on this one. You should not give a job to a woman just because of being one. It wouldn’t be fair to the women or the men. Quotas should be used just to make sure that people have a fair process. They can be used to guarantee that at least there are enough diverse candidates in the funnel and that they are being evaluated the same way during the hiring process. Quotas should not be used to fill in
positions with unqualified women because it will then become a counterproductive measure. The same applies to people with diverse backgrounds. Diverse talent exists and there are enough qualified people that must be considered.

IN: What advices could you give new start-up founders and venture capitalist that want to invest in new and minority own companies?

ANDREA: Just do it. Do not look at it as if there was any difference in investing in a minority led start-up or hiring a diverse person to your team. There is no difference. When it comes to women, for example, I always use the same example: when you go to the dentist, does it really matter if the person cleaning your teeth is a woman or a man? No. You don’t think that one is going to be better that the other. I just hope that one day we will see every job through this lens. It does not matter whether the startup is led by a man, a woman, a white person, etc. We are all just people in the end.

IN: What do you expect this year for baMa?

ANDREA: I hope that there is going to be a lot of growth and that we can get the word out. Also, to achieve more members and to reach regular people that are looking to invest for the first time or that want to help people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to raise funds. We all need to work together to try and make a difference and to continue fixing the lack of diversity.

About Andrea Course: Course currently serves as Venture Principal at Shell Ventures where she works together with innovative companies that could accelerate the energy and mobility transformation. With more than 12 years of experience in the energy sector, Course brings a multifaceted expertise in energy innovation.

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.

Catherine Carey Arribas baMa

Communications Manager January 2021

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