‘I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE IDEA OF EQUITABLE VENTURE CAPITAL’
Prior to starting business school, Mirza worked in the healthcare startup industry. With a passion for the intersection of integrated and digital health, he was drawn to Emory University due to the school’s strong reputation in public healthcare. “I knew that the opportunities that would be provided at Emory would be incredibly beneficial for my career,” he says.
Mirza believes that Goizueta’s small class sizes and tight-knit community have allowed him to establish himself as a leader and grow his skills — an opportunity that he may not have had at a larger school. His current role with the Peachtree fund is in marketing and recruiting, with his main focus being media outreach, building a social media presence, and sourcing the fund’s inaugural cohort. “I’ve been able to come in with little background in venture capital and become a managing partner of a venture capital fund,” he says. “I’ve fallen in love with the idea of equitable venture capital and the opportunities it presents.”
Mirza says that he’s now pivoting towards how he can provide equitable venture capital in the healthcare startup industry; after he goes through the Peachtree course, he’s confident that he’ll have more knowledge on how to make equitable decisions that are free from bias. “I want to make sure that I’m going into the venture capital world with a completely objective and open mind, and make sure that all of my decisions are equitable, thoughtful, and intentional,” he explains.
ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS
“The vast majority of venture capitalists are white males, whose networks are composed of other white males,” says Kazanjian.
To unlearn the harmful biases that currently plague the venture capital world and contribute to its inequities, Kazanjian is proud of Goizueta’s contributions; he says that at the institutional level, everybody understands and addresses DEI efforts. But what he’s most excited about with the Peachtree fund is that it’s going one step further than ‘putting words to it,’ as he describes. “I don’t mean to diminish the importance of commitments and support,” he says. “But we want to address these issues in a way that advances student learning and has a positive impact on the community. To me, that’s an exciting and meaningful opportunity.”
“As we continue to grow, we want to be a spotlight for underrepresented minority founders nationally who otherwise may not have a spotlight on them,” adds Mirza. “These are the people who don’t necessarily have traditional pathways and access to venture capital and private equity funds as others.”
THE EFFICACY OF EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
Mirza says that not only is the fund addressing systemic problems, it’s giving the students who are interested in working in venture capital as a career real-world experience. “We’ve all been told how venture capital and private equity is a tough industry to break into, and that you need relevant experience. You need more experience than being in a venture capital club; you need experience doing due diligence and actually investing.”
“One of the reasons I’ve been at Emory for over 30 years is for the potential of what we can do as a small school,” adds Kazanjian. “It’s remarkable the way in which we’ve been able to embed experiential learning opportunities — like this fund — into the MBA curriculum. It’s the size of the school that allows us to do this. I’d love to see students walk away with this experience with a deepened understanding and tangible skills.”
For Mirza, he’s most excited about the learning potential that the fund offers in the form of speaking with real entrepreneurs, learning about their struggles, and being able to offer help. “I’m 100% sure that the Peachtree course will be my favourite class over my entire MBA,” says Mirza.
MAKING AN IMPACT FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
While Mirza describes $1M as ‘a drop in the bucket in the scheme of venture capital,’ he believes that the value of the Peachtree fund is in highlighting the companies that are yet to be funded. “We want to do our due diligence on these companies and show established venture capital and private equity firms the ones with significant growth potential,” he continues. “We also want to demonstrate why there’s no reason why they can’t be invested in.”
“We’re putting our actions where our words are,” continues Mirza. “We want to work with establishment organizations and industries to make a more equitable society. We’re not coming into the venture capital space to tell them how to do things. But we want to work with venture capital and private equity and make a greater impact than previous generations have.”
“If we can continue to shine a light on the inequities and create students that go into the market with this orientation, we feel like we’d be making progress,” adds Kazanjian.