Really?! – another privileged white guy talking about diversity. Hold on. Don’t run away just yet. Privileged white guys are just as responsible as everyone else for being part of the solution. I’d like to discuss several opportunities (albeit small) that I’m working on to help increase diversity in my startup community – Boulder, CO.
I am eternally grateful to my parents, who aside from being awesome people are incredible entrepreneurs. My brothers and I were raised as entrepreneurs. When I was young, I took it for granted that my mother was a c-suite executive in an incredible, high-growth company. Flash forward several decades and I now hope to infuse my children with that same entrepreneurial spirit; that goes for both my son and my daughter. Unfortunately, when I look around most startups today I see a lot of other white males looking back at me. I often wonder, “What can I do to improve diversity in my startup community?”
Fortunately, I am in a unique position to help nudging the diversity dial. As founder of Boulder BITS, a startup studio, I form four new scalable tech startups every year. I help form an awesome leadership team every three months. I fund those teams. I am in the rare position to actively impact diversity in the startup community.
My Goals & Values Align
As a startup investor, what’s awesome about diversity is that it improves my return on investment. Adding female leadership to a startup improves the odds of success. Increasing diversity strengthens the startup’s resilience. It isn’t always easy to align financial goals with social goals. But in this case it is. I get to benefit the world and add value to my investment portfolio. Win-win.
Empathy & Gender Balance
Let’s consider a specific Boulder BITS startup for which I’m currently assembling a leadership team. This startup helps parents enroll their children in camps, lessons and aftercare programs without all the hassle or worry. Research shows that our target demographic is 85-90% mothers and less than 10% fathers. As we look for a CMO to scale the market share, who do you think I’m more likely to favor? A single, twenty-something Wharton graduate whose passion is beer pong and biking? Or an experienced mother of three who understand the horror show of scheduling their children’s lives?
Decades of research show that empathy driven startups are far more successful than tech-driven startups. Again, my financial goal of getting a 20x return on investment is linked with my social goal of increasing female leadership in the startup community. Beyond the c-suite execs, I hope we can encourage female developers to join our team to increase empathy throughout the company.
As I look forward to the next four startups on Boulder BITS’ agenda, females represent a huge portion of the customer market. I am committed to adding women to our leadership and development teams to increase empathy and success rate.
Women Who Startup
Boulder BITS supports Women Who Startup. Women Who Startup is dedicated to building a platform for women innovators, technologists and entrepreneurs – a worthwhile cause. The Vinetta Project is another great resource for investors and female entrepreneurs to link up. I’m attending one of their events this week.
In the Boulder startup community, it is far easier to address gender imbalance than race imbalance. In Colorado, the largest minority (black/African American) represents only 3.8% of the population. While I continue to struggle pushing the dial with the current Colorado population, my strategy here includes bringing diversity in from the coasts. If you’re on the coasts, you’re currently missing out. If you’re startup-minded, we want you in our community regardless of race, religion, affluence or sexual orientation. If you are in an under-represented category looking for your next startup gig, send me an email. I want to help.
Level up Diversity
I struggle because the startup studio model requires working with experienced cofounders to increase our portfolio’s success rate. Our primary criterion for choosing cofounders is whether other entrepreneurs would jump at the opportunity to work them. This means we often draw from a smaller pool of individuals with prior experience. Unfortunately, this experienced pool is overloaded with people like myself – aging white dudes. Yet, Boulder BITS and our spinoffs create opportunities for everyone to level up. We hire interns, developers, consultants, sales experts, designers and everyone else. Boulder BITS’ first two hires were female. We encourage our workforce to learn and grow beyond their current role so that our diverse workforce can increase the experienced pool. Our diverse rock stars today will be tomorrow’s startup leaders.
- Women are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. –American Progress Report
- Did you know that in 2014, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 21 percent? –AAUW
- “We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” Sheryl Sandberg
Author: Jesse Lawrence
Founder and CEO of Boulder Bits. Sci-fi lover, game theory strategist, and idea generator.