Gen Z venture capitalist Sanika Bhave challenges the VC space by embracing every part of the journey.

By Sanika Bhave, Photo by Tanya Atrvash

When I’m asked, “How did you get into venture capital?” I usually have to decide which of two stories to tell.
You see, I’m the daughter of two immigrants and since childhood, have been keenly aware of the privilege bestowed to me, through no endeavor of my own. Over the years, I thought being involved with policy at the governmental level could help me begin the process of giving back. I saw that political and social institutions held significant power, though access to it was severely limited by someone’s gender, race, background and other immutable pieces of identity. This outlook pushed me toward pursuing law school.

During my time at the University of Texas at Austin, I became interested in social entrepreneurship. I started building my own social venture aimed at reducing the amount of electronic waste we generate, and through that process, I realized that much of this work made environmental and economic sense. Yet there was a significant funding gap for ventures that could do good for the world and deliver good returns. The realization that I could achieve the same objectives I was chasing law school for (using institutions to drive meaningful social change) but maybe move a little faster through private markets spurred me to explore venture capital and understand the investor side of the table instead.

However, there’s another story threading through this narrative as well. I felt incredibly out of place during my first few years at the McCombs School of Business, and my introduction to venture capital happened during that period. My freshman year, I had a peer who spoke about VC in a way that felt completely unattainable for me.

One night, in a moment of sheer frustration and anger over how I felt about myself, how I felt in my program, how I felt about my future, I thought to myself, “What the hell even is venture capital?” As I started to do my research, I realized, “Oh, this is really interesting. I think I’d like to do this. I know I’m just as smart as him. I think I could do this too.”

The second part of my story illustrates that oftentimes as women, we don’t even know what we don’t know simply because of the power structures at work to keep us out of certain spaces. A desire to challenge those power structures, to prove to yourself and others that you’re capable, too, is just as valid and just as part of your story as everything else.

Confidently stepping into the world of VC as a young woman means being comfortable existing in your duality. For me, that means recognizing my unique background and skills and learning to be proud of myself while also feeling real frustration, anger and sadness about the world around me.

It is because of both of these experiences that I’ve been able to approach my work as an investor in a unique way. I use my position to advocate for causes I care about, like environmental justice. I use my youth to connect with and uplift other Gen Z entrepreneurs, and I use my unique educational background (I didn’t even major in finance in college) to derive different insights and connect differently than others on my team. It is by standing comfortably through this dualism that I’ve found my way.



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