Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and digitalundivided, a social enterprise that supports Black and LatinX women in innovation-focused entrepreneurship, today announced a strategic partnership in an effort to increase the number of diverse women founders in the Techstars Network. In joining forces, Techstars and digitalundivided are working to increase equitable access for Black and LatinX women founders entering Techstars programs, including Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs, Techstars Startup Weekends, and Techstars Startup Weeks.
This partnership announcement coincides with digitalundivided’s BIG Demo Day, that took place yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia, where 11 women-led startups in diverse fields such as eGaming, recruitment, education, beauty and lifestyle, media, and produce supply chain were showcased. The founders completed the 2017 and 2018 BIG Incubator program, a 30 week program for a select group of Black and LatinX women-led companies based on lean startup methodology. Techstars staff Jason Thompson, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at Techstars, and others attended the event.
“This year Techstars has expanded our focus on diversity and inclusion, and our partnership with digitalundivided is one of the ways we will achieve on that commitment,” says Jason Thompson. “We are thrilled to work with digitalundivided to further our engagement with Black and LatinX women entrepreneurs and provide the Techstars network as a resource to support their growth and success.”
Techstars is committed to expanding opportunities for underrepresented individuals throughout the network and serving as a leader in inclusive entrepreneurship. Active engagement of a diverse group of entrepreneurs plays a strong role in the economic empowerment of underrepresented peoples worldwide, stimulating positive social and economic global change. With industry data showing correlations between diverse teams, innovation, and stronger profitability, Techstars recognizes the importance of investing in diversity. According to a recent study, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to perform above the mean in their industry and those in the top quartile for race/ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform others in their industry.
According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report in 2018, women of color account for 47% of all women-owned businesses, an estimated 5.8 million businesses, and generate $386.6 billion in revenues. However, digitalundivided’s 2018 research initiative, ProjectDiane2018, found that this group receives less than one percent of all venture investment. Additionally, they are far less likely to have the personal wealth, financial safety net, or network of support other entrepreneurs rely on to launch and grow their businesses. The partnership between digitalundivided and Techstars will focus on increasing access for women of color to resources and opportunities that drive them towards success.
“We’re excited to partner with Techstars,” says digitalundivided Founder and Managing Director, Kathryn Finney. “Given that our BIG incubator program is dedicated to high-growth tech businesses founded by Black and Latinx women, we see this partnership as a chance to expand pathways to success.”
digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise founded in 2013, takes an innovative approach to economic empowerment by encouraging women of color (WOC) to own their economic security through entrepreneurship. With offices in Atlanta, GA and Newark, NJ, DID is the primary pipeline for WOC into innovation-focused entrepreneurship, helping founders raise over $25 million in outside funding.
Their current programming is built upon the success of DID’s FOCUS Fellow (FF) program (2012-2014), which provided support for WOC entrepreneurs. In 2015, DID started the #ProjectDiane data initiative and used insights gained from the ongoing project to build the BIG Incubator program and the BIG Innovation Centers.
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,500 companies with a market cap of $15 Billion. www.techstars.com
By Jason Thompson, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Techstars
Recently, I purchased a new TV. I decided there was no reason to read the directions. I figured I love technology, and I’m reasonably handy, so: no need for directions. What could go wrong?
I soon realized that every channel was in a foreign language. My first thought was that the cable company inadvertently sold me a lineup of channels for this particular foreign language. I assumed all I needed to do would be to change the channel to a local station. I was wrong! The local channel was also in a foreign language. The characters from a very popular US sitcom were speaking in English, I could tell, but the audio was something else. The audio did not match the video. The sound and the action didn’t match.
A simple principle of watching TV is that the audio matches the video. Much the same principle—that what we say must match what we do—is the basis for Techstars decision to update our Code of Conduct and incorporate the Kapor Founder’s Commitments. We have publicly said we are committed to Diversity & Inclusion, so it makes sense incorporate this into our Code of Conduct, plus adding some clear things we can do to act on our statements. Audio matches video.
The Kapor Founder’s Commitments have 4 pillars: Goals, Invest, Volunteer, and Educate (G.I.V.E.). We commit to hold ourselves to these standards, and we ask that all members of our network do the same. By having these pillars, our audio will match our video. It is one thing to say we are committed to D&I—but it is even more important to show how we are achieving on our stated commitment. G.I.V.E. is a tangible way to measure and implement our D&I commitment. As this project progresses you will be able to see a dashboard on our website that will show how Techstars is achieving on the G.I.V.E. commitments. You will see that we are not perfect; D&I work is a journey. We have places for improvement and projects in progress. We want make sure we are being transparent.
We know D&I is important, but it has to be reflected in our Code of Conduct and it has to mean something tangible. That is why we have included the Kapor Founder’s Commitments. Kapor has been a leader in the D&I space, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. We have worked closely with Kapor and we are grateful for their encouragement and shared learnings.
There was another thing that happened when I finally figured out how to change the audio on my TV to English… the video was fine, but somehow the audio was about one second behind the video. I could now understand everything, but the sound didn’t quite sync up with the images. First their mouths moved, and then came the speech. This was hugely distracting, to the point I couldn’t even watch my show.
The timing of the audio must also match the video, because even the slightest delay creates problems that cannot be ignored. This is quite a metaphor for fair pay for equal work. If you review the changes to the Code of Conduct you will see we have also expanded our D&I commitment to include fair compensation for equal work. Companies commit to diversity and inclusion need to make sure what they say is reflected in their actions and includes fair pay.
If you are paid a salary that is even a little behind what your co-workers are getting for equal work, it is unjust. Justice should not be asked to wait. It also creates an environment that breeds resentment because the solution is simple: pay all people a fair wage for their work. That is why we included in the Techstars Code of Conduct that all members of the network commit to ensuring everyone receives fair compensation, including all forms of equity and benefits. Audio must match video.
In addition to asking everyone in our network to sign the Code of Conduct, we are building a drip campaign for all new founders to assist them in meeting the D&I commitment. It will remind them quarterly of their commitment to D&I, and offer suggestions for them to achieve on the principles of G.I.V.E. Many of these suggestions cost little and are designed to assist even the youngest startup achieve on their D&I goals in a manner the is consistent with their size and resources.
Plugging in a TV seems simple enough, but the details are important. Being handy and loving technology are not enough for setting up a TV—or a productive D&I program. Liking people from diverse backgrounds and assuming that you have no bias is not enough. Building a D&I program requires commitment and focus. The commitment must be reflected in policies and programs. As Techstars continues on our D&I journey, we thank Kapor Capital for their work in the D&I space. And we ask that you join us on our journey. It is equally importantly that we all commit to working to ensure that the audio matches the video: that what we say matches what we do.
Thank you to those of you that have made suggestions to the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct. We have listened, and below you will find a new version of the proposed change based on a suggestion made via the website (as of 10/02/2018). Your suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
The Techstars Founder’s Code of Conduct is a living document managed by our community. We are reaching out now for your input on a proposed change to the Code of Conduct. Because we believe in diversity and inclusion, we wanted the Code of Conduct to better reflect that commitment. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Please submit your thoughts here by October 12, 2018.
13. We encourage diversity. We are committed to building inclusive work environments that reflect and value the diversity of people and cultures found in the world, which we believe leads to better companies. To ensure that our commitment to diversity and inclusion are tangible we adopt the Kapor Capital Founders’ Commitments, a set of four actions known, as “G.I.V.E.” (Goals, Invest, Volunteer and Educate).
25. Fair pay for equal work. We are committed to ensuring everyone receives fair compensation (to include all forms of equity and benefits). We appreciate the commitment our employees make to the success of our companies and agree to compensate them without regard to ability status, age, ancestry, civil union, class, color, ethnicity, familial status, gender, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, military service (current or past), national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other status. As a member of the Techstars network, we agree to be committed to eliminating all forms of pay inequality.