In 2019, only one Black woman was named partner in venture capital, according to All Raise, a nonprofit focused on accelerating female founders and investors. The data has shown, shows, and will continue to show how the tech industry fails to invest in underrepresented women of color.
Thus, hiring the next generation of founders and decision-makers is key (and promoting them is, too).
Sydney Thomas, who was the first hire at Precursor Ventures, a seed and early-stage focused fund led by Charles Hudson, has been promoted from senior associate to principal. Thomas is joined by Hudson, analyst Ayanna Kerrison and entrepreneur-in-residence Chapman Snowden, to make up Precursor.
After graduating from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley in 2016, Thomas joined Precursor to do what Hudson says most applicants wouldn’t: the operational work of bringing a solo-GP fund, then with less than $5 million in committed capital, to a more organized place.
“The fund was basically running out of my inbox,” Hudson said. “She really helped us get to a much better place operationally.” Thomas started off as an intern, toggling time between working for a Precursor portfolio company and the fund itself, and eventually came on as a senior associate.
As a principal, Thomas will now have more discretion to do deals and make decisions for the firm. “The goal was always for her to get us to a place operationally where she wasn't as critical,” Hudson notes. Thomas did not respond to request for comment.
Roles within venture have grown increasingly, and often intentionally, vague over time. At any given fund, there can be principals, investors, partners, investing principal partners and senior associate investors. Depending on the fund, each person could just go under the guise of "partner" and call it a day. But in action, every member on a venture team has a varying range of investment autonomy, decision-making authority and weight at the firm.
While the vagueness can balance out egos within a firm, it can often leave founders confused over who has the ability to give them money.
Hudson says he takes role differentiation seriously, and (patiently) wants to build Precursor into a place that helps people in venture get their first start. With Thomas’s promotion, she has the ability to green light investments without the mass overhead of what it means to be a partner.
“I think the only reason to make someone a principal is if you think that they could develop into a partner,” he said.