With all the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion, putting the spotlight on increasing the breadth and depth of talent in technology is a natural next step. Grit Daily News is here at Collision Conference in Toronto, reporting live on Day 2 of the event. Today’s conference agenda had an emphasis on best practices and case studies, offering lessons learned to founders at earlier stages in their entrepreneurial journey.
A San Francisco-based tech reporter hosted one of the most provocative panel discussions at the event. “Moving Past Male, Pale, and Stale: Increasing Diversity in VC” as a session title needs no further description. The panelists, Charles Hudson (Precursor Ventures), Jamison Hill (Base10), and Janine Sickmeyer (Overlooked Ventures) represented BIPOC and women in tech. When asked why there was still less than 10% representation of women writing cheques – and half of that people of color – Hudson had the most succinct response, “It’s a math problem. VC is a small ecosystem and it’s difficult to break into the network.”
Although male founders outnumbered those of other genders, there was representation by non-males. Not all female founders, or those who identify as women, exhibiting at the show are featured below. Some women in tech were not at their booths when Grit Daily News was present, and hence, could not be interviewed.
Nylas, a company specializing in productivity software, was rolling out new branding and a significantly larger booth space. The company’s founder, Christine Spang, proudly commented, “It’s been nine years and we’ve grown into some new branding and this new space.” By connecting data across communications channels, their IT solution keeps the focus on security and privacy. Spang was adamant, “We’re not selling data,” which is a clear differentiator versus some others in the field.
“e-Communications data is an untapped data source,” she said, “If you can connect it to your business processes via seamless integration, you can move those conversations into a first-party data experience with transparent permissions, which offers the personalization that people are looking for.” When asked what the primary industry applications of the communications APIs were, Spang shared that her team’s expertise in third-party certifications, like Gmail, helps their customers navigate several areas. These include developing CRMs, recruiting tools, and solutions in real estate. She emphasized, “But application can be much broader and really apply to any industry.”
Embracing a diversity framework
Jordana Matsos (hirequity Recruitment Agency Inc.) offered some insights into the bias that women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community face around recruiting. They’ve essentially flipped the switch as a recruiting company by focusing on their candidates, rather than on clients. “We train our candidates to get them fully prepared for their interviews in the job placements we source.” Matsos added, “If they’re not a good fit for one job, we find them another client.”
“I was in corporate for 20 years,” she opined, “and I continue to work with corporations, but many don’t have a diversity framework. We do! And we’re HR PCA certified.” That framework is particularly important for the diverse sales and marketing talent that her organization represents.
When asked about her message to clients and how they can overcome the staffing shortage and be more attractive to candidates, she was candid. “If there’s one thing that you need to do as a company, that’s train your new staff. Plus, you need to onboard them properly. Embrace diversity so that your company benefits from fresh thinking.”
Matsos then offered a few examples of the ”colorful” (that’s code for wholly inappropriate) comments that clients said using offensive terminology for diverse candidates to categorize them. Some clients have even specified the physical characteristics that they want – or don’t want – in their diverse candidates. Indeed, there’s an opportunity for some training on both sides here.
Enabling global mobility
Nomad Coliving is is the first Canadian co-living space. Its founder, Maria Kinoshita, has capitalized on the new mode of working that makes “home wherever your laptop is.” With 16 guest suites, entrepreneurs can network as well as collaborate. Shared core spaces help reduce environmental impact and embrace the increasingly popular lifestyle of digital nomads. Kinoshita said, “We’ve even sparked a few marriages!”
DECUREMED is a telemedicine company specializing in immigrant’s care. Dewi Kreckman recognized the need for immigrants to have access to affordable healthcare, medical records, 24/7 support, and a list of providers that catered to their local community. And, as many immigrants do not have credit cards or health insurance when they arrive in the USA, the platform enables alternative payment approaches such as digital wallets.
Designed for women
Innovation isn’t limited to B2B SaaS companies. Apricotton bras are the only ones that grow as girls grow. The flexible sizing and adjustability features enable tweens to teens to progress through puberty without the waste and expense of buying numerous bras that quickly become ill-fitting as girls age. Jessica Miao is the company’s founder.
Claire Ongcangco (Parlon) offers beauty and wellness services on a single platform. The contents have been curated for residents of the Philippines. Buyers can discover, book, and purchase salon and wellness deals.
Monday Girl is an all-in-one networking platform that helps professional women get started in their careers through mentorship, community, and education. Istiana Bestari is the company’s founder. Bestari highlighted how the company was originally founded as an events-planning service, “But COVID required us to pivot.” The company is now growing, particularly with membership from the FinTech and marketing communities.
Lifestyles and life cycles
Aurelie Biehler (Memoria) handles the difficult decisions required after a loved one has passed. Through a combination of on-demand services, such as floral displays, and consulting, the end-to-end platform enables bereaved families to make funeral arrangements. “Our marketplace contains curated vendors,” she said, “we aim to make the death experience a little better for grieving families.”
Lauralee Guthrie founded Mindku to help people manage all the stress they’re experiencing in the workplace. The company name is drawn from Hawaiian culture where “ku” means stillness. Guthrie’s platform is integrated with Microsoft® Teams and Slack so that employees can tune into moments of mindfulness and meditation as they need to.
Vegpal is a vegan social media app connecting people with similar interests. Find someone to dine with or find a place to dine. Their platform has been designed for live interaction and participation at events.
Artificial Intelligence applications
Here’s a social media app that has been designed to protect public-facing staff and brands. Artificial Intelligence is applied to help detect and counter online hate-speech and aggression. Jacqueline Comer, the founder of areto labs, pointed out that, “Social media is a workplace for many people, and it’s becoming increasingly toxic. Companies need to protect their staff from this toxicity.”