There is strong agreement across the European tech and VC community about the importance of creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.
The launch of a new diversity 'standard' for VC firms in September 2020 by the non-profit organisation Diversity VC aimed at standardising the approach to diversity across the industry and drive meaningful action has been adopted by already 11 VC firms. The survey includes a number of questions each year to explore the progress made on building a more diverse and inclusive European tech industry in the past 12 months. While many feel better informed and more empowered to take actions towards this goal and /or continue to change their behaviours, it is also clear that for many the industry is a long way from creating equal opportunity for people of all demographics, backgrounds and experiences.
We need to understand that [hurdles to underrepresented founders raising capital] are a structural problem. With this I don't mean that the structures are not working, in fact it is the very opposite. The structures are working exemplary by only benefiting those who define and design the current structures. There isn’t a design error in that sense and the only way we can create better outcomes for those other than the typical funded entrepreneur, the white cis man, is by designing and building new structures. There are existing examples of new types of VC’s and new structures and I am positive that more will follow. Until we see the change we want to see, we need to look at this as an injection to the DNA, the rewriting of the algorithm, not an add-on for the sake of diversity. As a new player in the world of venture I am on the mission to rewrite these algorithms and I believe these will be unconventional.
The impact [of the Black Lives Matter movement] led organisations to face what they had been avoiding for centuries: the fact that racism exists and is prevalent in our workplace, communities, and businesses. Here in the UK, the impact led to organisations embarking on D&I workshops, holding safe space forms, reviewing their process, volunteering with their community and so much more. But importantly, it strengthened the bond and unity between black communities all over the world, from US, to Nigeria, recognising the injustice the black community experiences is happening on a global scale and requires a global response. At YSYS we hosted The Rise of Black Tech Communities event bringing together black community leaders, to reinforce this bond - discussing resilience, strength and activism - turning our pain into power!
The change also needs to take place on the “other side of the table”, the investment side: Decision- & dealmakers need to get more diverse on all levels (junior to senior). If we look at the ratio of female/male partners at VCs, we realise, there is still a long way to go. This obviously goes beyond the question of gender, and also should include other aspects of diversity. Having a more mixed group of people discussing a potential investment will lead to different investment decisions. In addition to that, this will also lead to a broader and more diverse funnel for investors, as this is going to attract teams that might not have felt that they were the target group before.
If investors don't know by now that the first thing to do is go beyond their immediate network, then they have been hiding in the bushes. Diversify your network! Investors always say there is a pipeline problem, and the talent is hard to reach, but have they ever considered that they are the ones who are hard to reach? It's time to be accessible: get on the frontline and start volunteering, mentoring, hosting office hours, attending diverse events you would have never considered before, make your statements bold, use diverse jobs boards. You can start with using YSYS jobs board, but don't end with us only.