Below is a copy of the note HPVP shared with its portfolio companies in support of the peaceful protests for #BlackLivesMatter.
Over the past few days, you have been called upon to lead your company and teams through yet another national crisis. In some cases, your offices, homes, and employees’ homes are caught up directly in protests. Others are farther removed. Either way, like us, you are probably wondering what and how best to lead and communicate with your teams in another difficult situation. Here are a few thoughts that might be helpful.
First, it is said by many, but not said by enough, and so we will say it: HPVP stands with the black community and protestors. We stand against social injustice and racism and laud peaceful organization and protest as a means of social change.
Of equal importance, as with COVID, we must look out for the safety and well-being of our teams. If you have restarted operations in your office, we recommend returning to WFH as long as protests continue. While your office may not be in a hot zone, any commute could bring employees into harm’s way.
You may feel frozen as to how to communicate with your employees: Many of us are fortunate to have not experienced institutionalized social injustice ourselves. Some of us may cringe at the use of violence and destruction to itself fight violence. Does that influence whether we should speak or what we should say? Perhaps we have a greater responsibility to speak out because we are at less risk for doing so than others less fortunate. Either way, our view is that the greatest mistake of leadership at a time like this is to say nothing and do nothing.
HPVP is a small team, so we had the benefit of discussing the protests together in intimate conversation this morning. This is not a luxury that our larger companies have, but we hope you find the time to communicate how you feel and what you plan to do about it via an all-hands Zoom, or in a well-drafted email with breakout team discussions to follow. We can’t tell you what to say because every leader and every team is different, but our own approach is to support the protesters and to take action in the ways that we can.
In the short-term, we are allowing our team members time off to engage in civil discourse and participation — whether in protest or in volunteering for direct or related causes. We have also committed a matching fund of $10,000 which will apply to appropriate and related non-profit donations made by our employees and yours. Please spread the word.
Finally, we will be here again in another 50 years, as we were before in the late 60s, unless we each work to break the structural racism that has held minorities at bay in industry …especially in tech and finance. We are committed to increasing opportunities for hiring and mentoring of underrepresented minorities at HPVP. As a small organization, this is the best we can do without scale. As a portfolio of companies, the greatest thing we can do together to engender change is to hire and promote black and other underrepresented minorities. Please join us by making the hiring and promotion of underrepresented minorities a Board priority at your company.
As an investor, HPVP also has another lever, capital. We have increased our investment in minority and female entrepreneurs over the past five years and will continue to push this trend.
Below, please find a set of resources that you may find helpful as you consider your own approach to leadership amidst this environment. Thank you for all you are doing. We know that even during national crisis, you are focused on building great companies and leading us to better times.
The HPVP team
- List of resources for founders courtesy of Gale Wilkinson at Vitalize VC
- List of the different ways you can help and take action via BlackLivesMatter
- Chicago Tech Supports #BlackLivesMatter on Global Running Day