London’s tech startup ecosystem attracts talent and innovation from across the world and yet is inaccessible for communities living across the street.
When I first started getting involved in the tech start-up world I was shocked at how male, pale and privileged it was. Walking around the co working spaces at the heart of London’s tech city it honestly felt quite rare to see a woman, let alone a woman of colour. I’ve worked in most EU countries and have experienced all sorts of cultures and prejudices along the way but this was genuinely a first for me. The more I work in tech, the clearer it is that it is a world created by (mostly white and privileged) men, for men. Of course, I am generalising and there is definite momentum and signs of positive change ahead but there are still MASSIVE barriers to overcome.
Even today I remain shocked by the stats relating to women in tech…. in the UK, for every £1 of venture capital investment, less than 1p goes to all-female led teams. Of all funds raised by European VC backed companies in 2019, a staggering 92% went to all-male founding teams. I hear stories of male teams actively deciding not to include a woman in their team for fear it might affect their chances of investment. And, as well as suffering from a diversity deficit, London’s tech scene is not inclusive. It attracts talent and innovation from across the world and yet is inaccessible for communities living across the street.
These barriers need to be addressed through long term, structural interventions like the one we are trying to create through OneTech, which addresses the challenges from both the demand side (through policy and thought leadership) and the supply side (by connecting diverse communities with opportunities).
Since we originally conceived OneTech early in 2018 we have:
- Launched in October 2018 with funding from J.P.Morgan and in partnership with 5 delivery organisations – Diversity VC, Loughborough University in London, TechNation, The Accelerator Network and YSYS
- Expanded provision to reach more of London’s young and underserved communities and engage 2 further delivery organisations – FounderVine and UKBlackTech – and with support from the Mayor of London’s Digital Talent Programme and the South London Innovation Corridor
- Partnered with WeWork to provide free workspace to 100 female founders and 20 young founders
- Increased female founders in Capital Enterprise programmes by over 475% and BAME founders by over 233% (with Black Founders increasing by more than 600%)
- Recruited more than 250 people from under-represented communities (of which 51% are women and 61% are people of colour)
- Supported these to raise £10m and create 102 jobs (as of October 2019)
- Delivered Diversity Action Plans to 9 Accelerators and Diversity and Inclusion training to 20 senior tech leaders
- Highlighted the importance of diversity in tech with government through a series of high level round tables
- Shared the powerful stories of 13 OneTech Founders to inspire others.
& there is so much more to do.
We are now considering what new and different interventions are needed to move OneTech from a project with a start and an end date to being the sustainable movement of change we want it to become.
Part of this conversation is to really zoom in on the differences between diversity and inclusion. We often hear these works being used interchangeably and yet, when you start to think more deeply, they have really quite different meanings. We need more of both in tech.
|According to Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace, and the Will to Change.
Diversity is the who and the what: who’s sitting around that table, who’s being recruited, who’s being promoted, who we’re tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability—inherent diversity characteristics that we’re born with.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. Inclusion is the behaviours that welcome and embrace diversity. If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanize diversity of voices and identities.
When it comes to diversity – the who and the what – we will continue to support women and people of colour to connect with tech opportunities, and hope soon to be able to launch new support activities, accessible to people with disabilities, mental health issues and neuro diverse conditions. We want to work with government and others to incentivise investment in diverse communities and mandate the collection of diversity data by investors. We are exploring alternative forms of finance with terms where investors receive dividends through revenue-share, built to preserve optionality for founders and support long-term ownership and control. We believe that this will help increase the diversity of founders and leaders of high-growth-potential tech startups.
To increase inclusion – or the ‘how’ – we are working through the Mayor of London’s digital talent programme to offer community events, founders’ weekends, pre-acceleration support (through YSYS’s Founders Door), mentoring and workspace to 18-25 year olds with a particular emphasis on women and people of colour. Importantly most of the provision is delivered at the weekend or in the evening and support for travel and childcare costs is available. This enables people who don’t have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’ to consider starting a digitally enabled business whilst having time to earn the money they need to live. We would love to raise funds for a bursary or stipend so that founders lacking social capital and unable to bootstrap their start-up can work full time on their ideas. We would also like to partner with more, and different, community groups to ensure that together we are able to reach communities who will benefit most from the support on offer. We want to reach the ‘unusual suspects’.
We have also recently launched OneTech in the South London Innovation Corridor. With FounderVine and UKBlackTech we will be offering a combination of community outreach and tech engagement events, tech taster bootcamps, startup weekends, mentoring and pre-acceleration support. In the words of one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence Andy Ayim:
‘’We believe we are on the frontier of a shift with the advancement of technology, flexible working and what employees value where we can access and build wherever we live and work, not just in tech hubs like Old street, ‘Silicon Roundabout’. We want to see more coding bootcamps, scale-ups and reskilling programmes to enable entrepreneurs to attract, train and retain the best talent wherever they choose to build their companies.
These programmes offer a new pathway for often-excluded communities to access digital and tech opportunities. Some will go on to create companies. The best of these will have growth potential. All participants will gain an invaluable insight into the world of tech along with a wide range of transferable skills, which will support them into a knowledge based future, whatever it may be.
These are just a few of the ideas we are working on right now. There is lots more in the strategy wok! We are keen to broaden our reach in terms of the communities and geographies we work with, the services we offer and the impact we deliver.
Please do get in touch if you have inspiration or ideas.
By Alison Partridge, Head of Strategy, Capital Enterprise