Kanarys raises $3 million for its data-driven platform to assess diversity and inclusion efforts

Mandy Price was already a highly successful lawyer in private practice before she took the jump into entrepreneurship alongside two co-founders to launch Kanarys a little over one year ago.

The Harvard Law School graduate didn’t have to start her company, which helps businesses measure the efficacy of their diversity and inclusion efforts using hard data, but she needed to start the company.

Now, a year after its launch, the company counts companies like Yum Brands, the Dallas Mavericks and Neiman Marcus among the dozen or so companies using its service, and has $ 3 million in seed funding to help it expand.

For Price, the drive to launch Kanarys came from her own experiences working in law. It wasn’t the microagressions, or the lower pay, or casually dismissive attitude of colleagues toward her well-earned success that led Price to start Kanarys, but the knowledge that her experience wasn’t unique and that thousands of other women and minorities faced the same experiences daily.

I have had many things happen to me in the workplace that is similar to what many other women and women of color have dealt with, and didn’t want to have my children have to go through similar issues,” Price said. 

So alongside her husband, Bennie King (himself a serial entrepreneur in the Dallas area), and her University of Texas at Austin and Harvard classmate, Star Carter, Price launched Kanarys in late 2019.

The company uses Equal Employment Opportunity reports and assessments of various policies involving promotion, recruitment and benefits to track how a company is performing in relation to its industry peers.

“A lot of the inequities we see are from a structural and systemic standpoint. That is where Kanarys can see how they’re perpetuating inequity,” Price said. 

Kanarys starts with an independent assessment of a company’s policies and practices and then conducts quarterly surveys with employees of its customers to see how well they are meeting their stated goals and objectives. They also integrate with existing human resources systems to track things like pay equity and promotions.

The service has attracted the attention of the Rise of the Rest fund, Morgan Stanley, Jigsaw Ventures, Segal Ventures and Zeal Capital Partners, which led the company’s $ 3 million seed round.

“Organizations have typically tried to address this with individual interventions,” said Price. “What we’re saying is we have to address it on both fronts. So much of the inequities that we see are based off of institutional and systemic policies and practices.”

Not only does Kanarys track information on diversity and inclusion efforts for customers, but for job seekers there’s a database of about 1,000 companies which operates like Glassdoor. The focus is not just on worker satisfaction, but on how employees view the diversity efforts their employers are undertaking.

Notably, Kanarys founders join the (far-too-few) ranks of Black entrepreneurs launching businesses and raising venture capital. In 2017, studies showed that 98% of venture capital raised in the U.S. went to men, according to data provided by the company. Black entrepreneurs in general receive less than 1 % of venture capital, and Black women founders make up only 0.6% of venture capital funding raised. 

“We know that a focus on DEI in business is not just the right thing to do for employees, it also makes good business sense,” said Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, in a statement. “Kanarys’ DEI data arms companies, for the first time, to make precise, immediate, and informed decisions using real, intersectional metrics around their diversity goals and inclusion programs that ultimately drive bottom-line business objectives.”


Startups – TechCrunch

On the diversity front, 2020 may prove a tipping point

Since Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd in May and kicked off months of nationwide protests, the corporate world — including venture capitalists — have attempted to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Indeed, many quickly took to social media to voice their support, broadcast their new diversity-focused networking groups and pledge to do better, particularly when it comes to finding and funding more Black founders and other underrepresented entrepreneurs.

As of 2018, 81% of venture firms still lacked a single Black investor.

It was tempting to dismiss it as so much hot air, given that VCs have talked about diversity for eons without doing much about it.

As of February 2020, according to a report by All Raise, an organization that promotes female founders, 65% of VC firms still had no female partners. As of 2018, 81% of venture firms still lacked a single Black investor, per an analysis by Equal Ventures partner Richard Kerby.

Those numbers are comparatively rosy when considering the percentage of women and Black investors in senior decision-making roles. According to recent PitchBook data, at the start of this year, just 12.4% of decision-makers at U.S. venture firms were women (up slightly from the 9.65% at the start of 2019). As for for the number of Black investors in senior positions, it has long hovered around just 2%.

But here’s the good news: While it remains an ongoing challenge to get these numbers in sync with other industries, there were two developments specifically in 2020 that may beget more action in 2021.

We’d first point to the decision this fall by Yale’s endowment to require its asset managers to do better when it comes to diversity. Specifically, the school’s $ 32 billion endowment — led since 1985 by investor David Swensen — told its 70 U.S. money managers that from here on out, they will be measured annually on their progress in increasing the diversity of their investment staff, from hiring to training to mentoring to their retention of women and minorities.

Startups – TechCrunch

Increasing diversity in tech hiring requires a common-ground approach

The pandemic is surging in America once more. If this past year is any indication, it will hurt all of us — but communities of color will continue to suffer disproportionately.

Black and brown folks will make up more of the sick and the dying, and Black and brown businesses and employees will make up more of the people struggling financially.

Here is the good news: Interest in finding common ground and concrete solutions is also surging. That means there are some paths out of the mess we are in.

America’s biggest, best-funded, most-profitable companies are struggling to hire and retain diverse talent.

Let’s take stock: The longer the pandemic lasts, the more it could accelerate ongoing trends. Automation and advanced computing was changing how we work and undermining livelihoods before COVID-19, but by 2030, technology and automation will negatively affect hundreds of thousands of jobs that exist today.

The situation is worse for communities of color. Because people of color are overrepresented in fields that are likely to be automated, a McKinsey report estimated that 23.1% of African Americans and 25.1% of Hispanic Americans will see their jobs disappear or transform in the next decade. Even before COVID-19, the situation was bleak.

Perhaps this shift will create new, high-tech jobs, or those same people can retrain, retool and find employment in the economy of the future?

In practice, it is not nearly so easy. In 2019, the average cost for online coding bootcamps was $ 14,623 per person. Even with loans, installment plans or income-sharing agreements, that is far beyond the reach of many of the people whose current jobs are going away.

The pandemic is making this worse. Nearly 80% of low-income households do not have enough savings to last three months, and a third of Americans will have trouble paying their bills this month.

Waiting for the good news? America’s biggest, best-funded, most-profitable companies are struggling to hire and retain diverse talent. The good news is that they know it. They know they cannot compete without the genius in underrepresented communities, and they know they are not doing well enough right now.

Many companies will spend an average of $ 20,000 just on recruiting fees for a single IT hire, but hiring an IT candidate from a diverse community can cost three times as much, and once hired, there is a massive retention problem. Since 2016, the retention rate of Black and Latinx employees in Big Tech has fallen from 7% to 5%. There is a revolving door of diverse talent entering and leaving organizations.

In other words, you have a whole bunch of talented, creative people crying out for high-tech jobs — and a whole bunch of powerhouse, innovative companies desperate to hire and hold onto talent and creativity.

These overlapping needs mean we can find common ground. One model for this was the Dream Corps TECH Town Hall this month, where activists and educators from underrepresented communities shared panels with industry leaders. Instead of lobbing bombs at each other, both groups came to talk about the problems they face and how they can work together.

For instance, industry and educational leaders can devote resources to scholarships and training programs that come with job guarantees. Activists and CEOs can both push for universal broadband access, especially in the midst of a pandemic that is damaging learning opportunities for children, so that the next generation of coders has a shot at success.

Untapped talent in underrepresented communities can help companies avoid algorithmic bias and compete in a diverse, global world, and companies can help people thrive as the economy changes.

This common-ground approach is built on the recognition that both sides need each other in order to succeed. It can be a model for other thorny problems and produce necessary solutions. The pandemic is surging once more — but so is the demand for common ground. We can choose how we respond.

Startups – TechCrunch

Diversity in hiring for SaaS: the often overlooked topic of ageism

Diversity in Saas - intrinisic search

Diversity has been a hot button topic in the corporate world. Enterprises more and more realise they’ve unwittingly been practising favouritism, mostly with men with the same background. Building a team around similar characters can stifle innovation, knows Ben Watkins of Intrinsic Executive Search. He also notices that age is often not taken into account when tackling the lack of diversity.

Diversity in SaaS

The discussion on diversity often focuses on the inclusion of more women in the male-dominated workplace of SaaS enterprises. Despite there are some ways to go, there are signs things are slowly improving says Ben Watkins. He is managing director of Intrinsic Executive Search, where he dedicates his time to finding the best C-level Executives for SaaS companies all over Europe.

A recent SaaS benchmark report from Openview asked 1,200 people from around the globe about their workplace, colleagues and leadership. 42 per cent of respondents had one or more female Board of Director member. That’s up from 38 per cent last year and nearly 50 per cent more than in 2017, says Watkins: “A driving force behind the growth could be the California Government intervention with their boardroom diversity law that was signed in 2018.”

Slow progression

However, not all numbers paint a similar picture. Intrinisic Search also keeps a close eye on the progression of inclusion and equality in SaaS. Their findings are, unfortunately, less optimistic when viewed from a diversity point of view.

“We’ve been monitoring Chief Revenue Officer hires over the last twelve months as they have been announced in the press and on Linkedin”, says Watkins. “We noted a total of 180 new CRO’s. From the 180 hires, only 30 of them were female. That is just 17 per cent.”

Ageism in the world of SaaS

It’s one of the reasons Watkins thinks it is crucial to let someones’ skills and experience define whether he or she is the best candidate for the job. Especially the ‘experience’ part brings Watkins to an element of discrimination that he thinks is often overlooked in the discussion about diversity: ageism.

Watkins: “This is perhaps more common than you think when it comes to hiring. We often hear from individuals who are 50 years or older who find it extremely tough to get hired by SaaS firms.” A survey by Intrinsic Search that gathered feedback from 400 European CXO, VP and Director Level SaaS Executives operating across over 10 different European countries seemed to confirm. 

Tough to hide age

Over 35 per cent of the respondents believe the B2B SaaS industry is ageist when it comes to hiring, a minority (22 per cent) disagrees. ‘Being young’ often seems to be an essential quality that employers are looking for. With photographs on LinkedIn profiles, age is a tough thing to hide.

Watkins stresses that being over 50 years of age does not disqualify anyone from being a SaaS Executive. “We often hear that once a SaaS sales rep is past 50, there’s much less gas in the tank. Less hunger or energy. We often get the request to ‘find someone who is on the way up and hungry’. A request we always ignore. Why do some believe that someone in their 30’s has more chance of success than someone in their 50’s or 60’s when it comes to selling SaaS?”

‘Judge everyone on an individual basis’

How can individuals navigate their way around not being selected due to their age? Adding some mystery might help to take the first hurdle. “When writing your CV, we suggest making it tough for someone to guess your age”, says Watkins. “Never include your date of birth, or make it easy for the reader to guess your age. Remove your years of early study and mentions of employment back in the ’80s.”

In the end, it’s not the age, gender, cultural background that makes a SaaS sales rep good or bad, concludes Watkins. “There are lazy and bad sales reps at any age: 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years old. Judge every applicant on an individual basis. Attitude is King. There are many 50+ years old’s out there who are extremely hungry to make as much money as possible and possess a considerable drive and a wonderful attitude to smash their sales targets.”

Startups – Silicon Canals

Meet the Europe-based winners of the Diversity in Tech Awards 2020, sponsored by Microsoft for Startups – Silicon Canals

Meet the Europe-based winners of the Diversity in Tech Awards 2020, sponsored by Microsoft for Startups  Silicon Canals
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

With female founders receiving hardly any funding, Amsterdam’s push for diversity continues

eva de mol fundright

The tech startup tech ecosystem remains a male-dominated world. The numbers speak for themselves: last year only 1 per cent of all venture capital in The Netherlands went to startups with solely a female founder, according to Fundright, based on data from Techleap. Several new initiatives aim to turn the tide.

Fundright: only 1% funding for female founders

The research from Fundright paints a somewhat sombre picture. In the first nine months of 2020, only 1 per cent of venture capital in The Netherlands went to startups led by women. That’s even worse than in 2019 when it was an already measly 1,6 per cent. Startups with a diverse team received 13 per cent of all funding in the same period.

The data was made available by Techleap.nl and gathered by Fundright. Fundright started nine months ago as an initiative that aims to improve diversity in the tech and startup scene. Its goal is to have an ecosystem that consists of 35 per cent women by the year 2023. 

‘We need to do better’

Eva Mol, managing partner of CapitalT and member of the Fundright initiative realises a lot needs to change to achieve that goal: “This new data shows that female founders need a man in their team to get the funding in”, she says. “This is unacceptable and sad in the twentieth century. We need to do better.”

The decline in funding for female-led startups is partly due to the outbreak of the pandemic, causing investors to look for safer options says De Mol: “Because of COVID, investors are more inclined to stay in their own network, looking for deals. When your network is homogenous, COVID makes it harder to break out of that bubble.”

Despite the apparent setback, the goal of Fundright is still to have 35 per cent women in the Dutch startup ecosystem in two years. One way for VCs to look beyond their own network is by supporting the FundRight initiative.

TechMeUp launches for ‘worry-free’ education

De Mol is not alone in her effort for more diversity. With the launch of TechMeUp, The Netherlands has a fund to offer scholarships to underrepresented people in tech. The fund, that launched today, offers an interest-free loan for people to enrol in a tech-related education. The main goal is to increase diversity in the ecosystem. one of the founding members Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom and founder of Codam. 

Read also: Tech academies in Amsterdam: Solving lack of developers and lack of diversity at the same time

The lack of diversity in funding is directly impacting innovation, Vigreux says: “People don’t know what they don’t know. It’s nearly impossible to come with innovative solutions to problems you cannot relate to because of who you are. So to create meaningful innovation, you need a diverse group of people in the first place. If you only have one type of people to solve issues, you’re only going to solve one type of problem, in one type of way. Innovation cannot happen without a diverse team.”

Interest-free loans for tech academies

For Vigreux, it all starts with education: “That’s why institutions like Codam Coding College not only focus on delivering a high level of education in Computer Science but also on making it accessible to the most diverse population.” In the last cohort, Codam has attracted 41 per cent women for their software engineering courses. 

TechMeUp has only just started and already raised 375,000 euros for its training fund from ASML Foundation, Exact Foundation, Rabobank Amsterdam, StartupAmsterdam, CA-ICT, SIDN and the Municipality of Amsterdam. It aims to raise 2 million from the business community. Selected students get ‘worry-free’ access to private educators such as Codam, Growth Tribe, Ironhack, TechGrounds, Techionista and Winc Academy. Tuition and in some cases living allowance, ranging from 2500 to 7500 euro, are provided as an interest-free loan. Students pay it back once they find a job.

WomenTech and Founders Institute Amsterdam join forces

Another initiative that has recently launched is the partnership between Founders Institute Amsterdam and WomenTech. The collaboration between the massive pre-seed startup accelerator and the network of women in tech is part of the Amsterdam – Silicon Valley Virtual 2021. It offers access to a local and global support network of mentors, investors, and advisors, many of them women, and boasts over €1.5 million in partner deals and resources. The program is open to all founders but aims to increase diversity by offering additional support for women. 

For Anna Radulovski, founder and CEO at WomenTech Network, Amsterdam is a great place to touch down, but she acknowledges there’s room for improvement on the diversity front: “Based on various research Amsterdam ranks high as a tech and startup hub. While many indicators are in the top percentile, gender diversity in tech and startups is still relatively low, implying a high potential for development and growth.”

COVID impacting female entrepreneurs

Just like Fundright, Radulovski notices the pandemic isn’t helping female founders in particular. She points at countries like New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland, Germany and much of the Nordics, where female country leaders seemed to do well during the pandemic: “It is kind of a paradox, on one side there is evidence that female leaders are handling the pandemic better, and on the other side, female-led startups receive less funding, which could potentially serve also as solutions to issues created by the pandemic.”

Stay up-to-date: Read all our COVID-19 coverage here

Radulovski says the collaboration between the Founder Institute and WomenTech aims to eliminate bias against women in venture capital and tech leadership. “While this is not a solution to the imminent issue, we want to help our founders to overcome and work around, by understanding how bias works, when it appears, for example, in the pitching process, and equipping them with tools, motivation, and methodologies to reach their funding goals.”

What VCs can do

But in the meantime, there are simply not enough women in the startup and tech ecosystem. Eva de Mol urges female founders not to be discouraged, but to keep thinking big and look for VCs with a track record of investing in diverse startups: “Sure, we as Fundright can do more. Create more awareness or more campaigning. But in the end, the decision lies with VCs.”

Vigreux agrees that female founders can claim their rightful spot by getting more ‘out there’. “Don’t be too modest, and show what you are capable of.” She also advises VCs to do some soulsearching as well: “They need to have diversity as one of their main goals to bring this percentage up. They can be the change.”

Header image: Eva de Mol / Fundright.nl

Startups – Silicon Canals