Ayori Selassie, a Black senior manager at Salesforce and a mother of two, was fed up with the direction the world was taking. She wanted to make a difference, and she wanted to do that as an investor. However, she knew she needed to learn more skills. “I understood tech, but I needed to learn things like portfolio management and construction, how to do due diligence, and how to fundraise,” she tells Fast Company.
On the advice of a mentor, Selassie applied to the Material Change Institute, a one-year training program for aspiring investors from marginalized groups. She became one of 10 fellows in its inaugural class. The program officially launches publicly on Tuesday, when it’ll also open for applications for its second year.
Eve Blossom, the institute’s founder, says she has long been troubled by investing’s diversity problem. Overall, women and minorities only manage 1.3% of the world’s assets. Furthermore, according to a 2022 Deloitte report, the Venture Capital workforce is very white: only 5% is Hispanic or Latinx and only 4% is Black.
Blossom is an investor and “serial entrepreneur” (including starting one company with Reid Hoffman before he became cofounder of LinkedIn) with a background in architecture and design systems thinking. The Material Change Institute is her answer to solving investing’s diversity problem. The program, which can be done concurrently with a full-time job currently, costs $2,995. It includes a curriculum for investment training, mentorship, internship opportunities, networking, and outplacement help. It’s attracted instructors such as Suneel Gupta (author, entrepreneur, and brother of Sanjay Gupta), and Raj Kapoor, former chief strategy officer at Lyft.
When Blossom founded the institute in 2020, she’d intended to keep the first cohorts small, but says she had so much demand that she’s increasing next year’s cohort to 25-30 fellows. Her hope is the institute will continue to grow, increasing the talent pipeline of diverse investors.
“Traditionally, a venture capitalist has been someone from an affluent background or someone who has built excess wealth for themself,” Blossom says. “But since the asset management industry is really a cornerstone of the world economy, we really need to unlock the value in new and emerging markets . . . And that happens to be where underrepresented investors can see these new and diverse markets with a different lens and achieve a real influence.
Today, Selassie is four months into her fellowship. So far she’s led two investments, invested in six companies, and hopes to get a job at a venture capital firm once the fellowship ends, and then ultimately create her own fund.
“I wouldn’t have access to world-class mentors like Karin Klein, Founding Partner at Bloomberg Beta, if it weren’t for the structure and mentorships offered through Material Change,” Selassie says. “What’s amazing about Material Change . . . is they really helped each one of us take our unique perspectives to create win-wins for our investors, for the entrepreneurs we’re supporting, and ultimately for the world we’re trying to shape.”
This post has been updated to reflect the price of the program: $2,995. An earlier version cited the inaugural price of $1,995.