The State of Venture Capital & Fostering Diversity with Vijay Rajendran
Vijay Rajendran, Head of Portfolio Value at venture capital firm 500 Global, is part of a team whose mission is to invest in and uplift entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and places.
Venture capital firm 500 Global invests in founders building fast-growing technology companies—and on markets where they can unlock long-term value and drive economic growth.
With $2.7B in assets, the firm's success speaks for itself as 500 Global has backed over 5,000 founders from more than 2,700 companies across 81 countries. Their portfolio includes 49 companies valued at over $1 billion and more than 150 companies valued at over $100 million.
The 500 Global team has over 180 members located in 27 countries—and includes entrepreneurs, investors, and operators from some of the world’s leading technology companies.
Most impressive, is the firm’s mission of uplifting people by supporting entrepreneurship. Since its founding over 10 years ago, 500 Global has been dedicated to diversity and continues to work toward moving the needle forward through its accelerator programs and investments.
HubSpot for Startups met with Vijay Rajendran, Head of Portfolio Value at 500 Global, to learn how he got his start in venture capital, the importance of diversity at the firm, and his advice for other aspiring founders.
Q &A with Vijay
Where the interest in startups began
HubSpot for Startups: How did you get your start in venture capital?
Vijay: I have been involved in startups since I was in college when I had the opportunity to work for a small venture leasing firm in Boston. However, I joined a venture capital firm for the first time when I came to 500 Global (then 500 Startups) to form a new corporate innovation and partnerships group in 2018.
HSFS: What are your roles and duties at 500 Global?
Vijay: Today, I lead our portfolio value team at 500 that supports our network of startup founders with the community, capital, and connections they need to succeed.
Building a successful team
HSFS: What qualities do you look for in a startup CEO or management team?
Vijay: Good management teams have exceptional communication and an ability to talk to each other about what needs to be done. They are also good at expressing their needs and being specific about how advisors, investors, and peers can help them. That's when we confidently know we can help them move the needle.
HSFS: Why does 500 Global believe in the importance of supporting diversity?
Vijay: One thing that hasn't changed much is the representation of historically excluded or underestimated groups. This is true of those building new startups as well as those writing checks. At 500, we believe talent is everywhere, and great founders exist in all places, across all races, and genders. While our work is not done, our team, as well as our portfolio, continues to reflect that belief.
“What sets us apart is our mission to uplift people and economies throughout the world through entrepreneurship. We believe that talent is located everywhere and we do the work that we do by backing founders who are often from under-appreciated backgrounds or places in the world.”
Advice for aspiring founders
HSFS: What advice do you give to founders who are looking to get funding or resources from a company like 500 Global?
Vijay: At the seed stage, I encourage founders to consider our flagship accelerator and other programs, such as those in Latam, MENA, Emerging Europe, and Asia, which continue to be great ways to build your company, get investment, and be part of a vibrant global network. In addition, we invest directly with great teams building exceptional products in massive markets.
The state of the VC world today
HSFS: How has the VC world changed over the years since you started?
Vijay: Since joining 500, and certainly since I began my career, I've found the size of the industry is much larger with many new funds, new fields, and hot new fields that change seemingly overnight.
Engaging with the AAPI community
HSFS: Do you find time to engage in the Indian community, and if so, how do you find those communities?
Vijay: Since having children, we try to find time in our busy schedules to participate in cultural events and share with them through food, festivals, and the arts. Fortunately, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a number of associations and gatherings we have joined, from an East Bay family Navratri Garba (a folk dance) to a Holi (festival of colors) celebration on the Peninsula. Last weekend we prepared street food snacks for a multicultural night at our elementary school. Needless to say, there is always more to do, and I'm working to engage more closely with the community over time.
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